#NuggetsRank No. 11: Timofey Mozgov

Rounding out the bottom five of our #NuggetsRank countdown is third-year center Timofey Mozgov. Although he showed tangible improvement in terms of production, Mozgov never found a consistent role in an up-and-down sophomore season with the Nuggets.

He now enters the final year of his contract as one of the biggest unknowns on the team.

Mozgov began last year’s lockout-shortened season as the de facto starting center, but never looked comfortable in that role before injuries and inconsistency starting affecting his playing time. He notably bounced back as an impact player and eventual starter in the Lakers series, but prior to that Mozgov was out of the rotation completely. The Nuggets left him on the bench for their playoff push after he struggled to return from an ankle injury.

Where Mozgov stands heading into this season is anyone’s guess. His defense has proven to be useful against the more physical teams in the league, but he’s been foul prone and inconsistent. He looks coordinated and aware in the overseas game, but his offense is marred by a high turnover rate and low field goal percentage at the rim.

Mozgov has shown reasonable development in his first two NBA seasons, raising his rebound rate and true shooting percentage each year. On the other hand his turnover problem has gone from bad to worse. There’s still reason to hope Mozgov puts it together this year, but he’s now 26 and still trying to establish himself as a rotation player.

He may not have youth or the promise of boundless potential on his side anymore, but Mozgov still shows flashes of an ideal package of size and skill otherwise missing on Denver’s roster. The Nuggets wouldn’t have brought him back from the dead in the playoffs if he didn’t offer something unique

In theory, Mozgov should be the mobile big who can physically match up with true centers in Denver’s uptempo style. In practice, he gives you solid D in exchange for little to no offense with plenty of turnovers. He turned the ball over on 19.8% of his possessions last season, an absurd amount for a low usage backup center and worse than his rookie mark of 18.3%.

Even with a mostly inept offensive game, Mozgov has shown enough in other areas to avoid being shut out of the long-term plans entirely. It’s not out of the question for the Nuggets to extend his contract and keep him as a compliment to JaVale McGee in a scenario the Nuggets will be betting on by giving him minutes next season.

Mozgov had an active summer, first qualifying for the Olympics in Venezuela and of course being Russia’s second leading scorer throughout their Bronze medal run in London. It’s hard to say with certainty that the Nuggets can learn anything concrete from the Olympics, but it is evidence Mozgov can be an effective two-way center in a FIBA setting.

Nuggets fans may not have to wait much longer to find out whether or not Mozgov’s European success will ever translate to the NBA. At this stage in his development, there’s no more time keep waiting around for an answer.

Mozgov will walk a fine line between trade chip and promising young player throughout the upcoming season. On opening night he could conceivably be the starting center or out of rotation altogether.

It’s clear Timofey Mozgov has untapped potential as a player who gives the Nuggets frontcourt a different look, but much harder to see where he fits into the long-term plan. While he’s certainly good enough to garner continued development somewhere in the league, his window for doing it in Denver is rapidly coming to a close.

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Charlie Yao

Managing Editor at Roundball Mining Company and writer since 2010. Unhealthily obsessed with Nuggets basketball since 2002. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the links on the left.
  • blackhill

    Mozzy and KK shuld be ahead of Brewer and, especially, Randolph and Hamilton. 7 footers are much more valuable than 1 fringe rotation player (Brewer) and 2 guys who, I don’t think, will sniff the rotation until the Nugs suffer multiple injuries.

    • Charlie

      Our rankings were close between no. 12 and no. 8, with a lot of differing opinions on how to value thew guys in those range. I would say ranking the centers was the most difficult part of the exercise but really Mozgov was more of a fringe rotation player than Brewer. He had trouble staying in the lineup last year and this year faces stiffer competition for minutes

  • Nugznazty

    Mozzy, Chandler, trade exception for ….. who? Our starting 5 is too solid. K2 is a better backup and mozzies value is higher. can Josh smith play the 3? I’d trade Galo/mozz …

  • Jeff

    I think Mozgov was disappointing this season, overall. He looked frustrated and uncomfortable 90% of the time. Like you said, he is best utilized as another big body to throw at big time centers on opposing teams.

  • blackhill

    I have a hard time seeing Brewer getting too many minutes when Iggy, Dre, Gallo and Chandler will get nearly all of the minuted at the 2 and 3 positions. I don’t know if Moz gets in the rotation or not, but having another back up 7 footer who is about as effective as your other back up 7 footer, gives the Nugs such impressive depth. Many teams want that, that’s why you will see, this summer, that Moz is much more valued by NBA gm’s than Brewer (Nuggets GM included).

    Guys I would like to see come to Denver for some combo of KK/Mozzy and Gallo/Chandler:

    Josh Smith
    Al Horford
    Kevin Love
    Varajeo (if Gallo isn’t involved)
    Eric Gordon

    • https://twitter.com/denbutsu denbutsu

      “you will see, this summer, that Moz is much more valued by NBA gm’s than Brewer ”

      ^That may well be the case, but I think there’s a solid argument to be made that, if so, it is more due to bigs being at a premium and swingmen a dime a dozen in the league than to Moz having clearly demonstrated that he is actually that much better of a player than Brewer. Market value doesn’t always correspond too closely with player quality. That said, I think you’re probably right about what teams will pay for these guys, and I will not at all be surprised if we see Timo land the bigger paycheck in 2013-14.

      • CJP32

        “I have a hard time seeing Brewer getting too many minutes when Iggy, Dre, Gallo and Chandler will get nearly all of the minuted at the 2 and 3 positions”.

        ^I think you are missing a few key aspects of this upcoming season:

        1. George Karl wants to play fast ball and run. That means we need a rotation of guys that are willing and able to play a fast paced game. Brewer fits in perfectly. Gallo, Chandler and Mozzy are all coming off injured seasons and both Gallo and Mozzy have been playing for their country in the off-season. Chandler is still not 100% and will probably have his minutes monitored to start the season.

        2. Al Harrington is gone – therefore we will see both Gallo and Chandler play minutes at the 4 spot – again, George Karl wants Fast Ball and loves the small ball, and again Brewer will get minutes at the 3 spot.

        3. I feel that there are going to be 3 clear battles in this group. Firstly, Gallo vs Chandler. One of these guys may be gone by the trade deadline. We have seen Denver FO hand out extensions, then trade them (Nene, Afflalo). Secondly, Mozzy vs Koufos – one of these guys will get minutes and one won’t – they will have to earn them. Both have unique strengths, but do Denver need both guys behind McGee? Thirdly, JHam vs Brewer – either GK goes with Hamilton’s scoring and three point shooting potential, or he goes with Brewer’s Defense and Energy.

        The first 2 months of the season include 17 of 23 games on the road. A 9-10 man rotation will be needed. Health/Injuries will be a big concern. Everyone will be battling each other for minutes.

        • nida

          How will he get the minutes? I’m thinking:

          Ty (35) Dre (14)
          Iggy (37) Dre (12)
          Gallo (33) Chandler (17)

          • CJP32

            As I mentioned previously, with Big Al gone, Gallo/Chandler will get minutes at the backup PF spot. I also would not be surprised if coach GK gives the starting C nod to Mozzy, as he likes the combination of Andre/McGee off the bench. Chandler has the 6th man role and Brewer is the energy guy that gives Iggy/Gallo a breather. Again, this could all change after the first month or so, but initially, Im thinking minutes will look something like:

            PG – Ty (34) Dre (14)
            SG – Iggy (34) Brewer (8) Dre (6)
            SF – Gallo (24) Chandler (14) Brewer (10)
            PF – Faried (28) Chandler (14) Gallo (6)
            C – Mozzy (20) McGee (28)

            With a team that goes 10 deep, and the idea of fast ball all season, there is no reason why any Nugget would have to average more than 34 mpg – injuries/fatigue will be a big factor. These are just my thoughts, who knows what George Karl is thinking!!

      • nida

        Fair enough points.

    • Zack

      Haha so is this list basically your dream list of people who you would want to come to the Nuggets (but most of whom will not be traded for really anyone shy of a top 10-15 player)?

      Out of your list, here are the players that are absurd to be listed on a potential KK/Moz & Gallo/Chandler:

      Love (he won’t be traded, period)
      Gordon (he also won’t be traded)
      Aldridge (ditto)
      Cousins (same)

      If any of those guys gets traded for either KK-Gallo, Moz-Gallo, KK-Chandler or Moz-Chandler then A) the GM for their team should be immediately fired and B) Masai should immediately win Exec of the year for the trade alone.

      At least your list has a few guys that are a slight possibility, but come on with those 4.

      BTW, I can do a dream list too that includes multiple guys who won’t ever get traded to the Nuggets for any players: (how about Durant/Westbrook for Dre/Moz?, maybe LeBron/Wade/Bosh for Gallo/McGee/Dre?). Come on, be realistic.

      • nida

        It is unrealistic on your part to claim that none of these players “won’t be traded, period.” Hoe do you, know? Do have a crystal ball, sport? I’m looking at the next 2-3 years, I never once advocated an immediate trade. It would be preposterous to read my post and take from it that I meant each trade (I listed quite a few names) would happen immediately in that exact form without possible other names, picks added.

  • Aaron

    Randolph is NOT a Top 10 Nugget Player. Hate To Say That Cuz I Know You Guys Put A Lot Of Time in But I’d Rather Mozgov And Koufus More Then Randolph.
    I Doubt Randolph Will Really Even Play Much Unless Faries Gets injured.

  • GK4Prez

    I would probably flip flip Moz and Koufos, but I can’t argue with where they landed.

  • blackhill

    Randolph was born to be buried in Karl’s doghouse.

    • dynamo.joe

      Now that’s funny.

      Maybe we should just start referring to him as Balkman 2.0?

  • Ban Johnson

    I hope y’all are right about Jordan Hamilton. Seems like wishful thinking to put him ahead of guys who’ve already proven to be solid NBA rotation guys (at least somewhere.) Hamilton has proven exactly nothing.

    Mozgov did a real solid job defending Andrew Bynum last year in the playoffs. No small thing. Mozgov’s solid play in the olympics also deserves a mention.

    • https://twitter.com/PrincePickaxe Kalen

      After seeing Hamilton play in Summer League and knowing his history, I’d say we’re pretty confident in where we ranked him.

  • Nugnugz

    Mozgov has those stone hands that result in some insane turnover %s. But he is a nice pick and pop option, just don’t ask the guy to roll to the basket because he’s dropping that pass every time.

  • joe

    Mozgov seems the most likely candidate to be first big off the bench to back up javale in which case he should be higher than randolph who won’t leave the bench or even Brewer who may lose all his minutes to jham

  • http://yahoo mile high

    Moz’s issue is probably mental rather than physical. Instead of blaming his hands for the high turnover rate, maybe he should just stop thinking too much and learn how to focus instead. If he can keep his focus on the flow of the game when he doesn’t have the ball and then focus on the ball when he does get it, I’m sure his turnover rate will come down drastically.

  • corybyu

    Here is my #NuggetsRank. Feel free to comment.

    1. Andre Iguodala
    2. Ty Lawson
    3. Kenneth Faried
    4. Javale McGee
    5. Danilo Gallinari
    6. Wilson Chandler
    7. Andre Miller
    8. Corey Brewer
    9. Kosta Koufos
    10. Timofey Mozgov
    11. Jordan Hamilton
    12. Anthony Randolph
    13. Julyan Stone
    14. Evan Fournier
    15. Quincy Miller

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