After a disappointing season that saw his standing with the Cleveland Cavaliers take a step back, Timofey Mozgov is still a wanted man in free agency, with the Cavaliers interested in keeping him, while the Houston Rockets, Miami Heat, Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs interested in signing the Russian center.
After a successful period in 2014-2015 following a trade from the Denver Nuggets, Mozgov had a rough second season with the Cavaliers. A nagging injury wasn’t the only thing holding him back, but the Cavaliers preferring smaller lineups and giving Tristan Thompson a bigger piece of the pie, among other things. Mozgov averaged just 6.3 points in 17.4 minutes per game. He didn’t start a single game in the postseason, averaging only 5.8 minutes, playing in 13 out of 21 possible games.
The timing is obviously bad for Mozgov. A contract year with his playing time reduced, and the usefulness of centers, except for an elite few, questioned more than ever. But as the playoffs show, and the season showed, it’s less about the position, and more about the role you can fill. Mozgov is a good finisher near the rim and has sweet mid range jumper. He is a good rebounder and can protect the basket. That’s not a max contract, not anywhere close, but someone is going to want him as the main backup to the bigs or even a low-minute starter.
The Cavaliers are looking into the option of keeping him, but it probably depends on how much luxury tax their owner is willing to pay. Last season the Cavs exercised the team option they had on Mozgov, for $4 million. This year he’ll be asking for more, which might be too steep for them to pay.
As for the other suitors, they’re either looking at him in a smaller role (Warriors and Spurs), while both the Heat and the Rockets have a different center on their mind, for now: Hassan Whiteside. Once it’s known where he’s going to end up playing, those who end up losing in the chase can turn their attention to Mozgov, who’ll be celebrating his 30th birthday in July, and is entering his 7th NBA season.