Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly turn out as planned. After again losing the battle for center minutes to Kosta Koufos, Mozgov’s make-or-break campaign turned into a lost, irrelevant season on the bench. Following a breakout year from starting center Kosta Koufos, the Nuggets again flamed out in the first round, fired their longtime coach, traded away Koufos, and awarded the unproven Mozgov with a rich extension and a guaranteed slot in the rotation, two things he was not able to earn in his previous two-and-a-half seasons in Denver.
If that sounds crazy, welcome to the Denver Nuggets offseason in 2013. Timofey Mozgov comes in two spots lower in this year’s #NuggetsRank series at number 13.
There was some consternation amongst our writers about where Mozgov deserved to be ranked, but in the final tally he was bottom four in every one our ballots. That is not the best news for a guy who will surely be in the rotation next year and was one of most expensive additions of the offseason, with an annual salary coming in just behind JJ Hickson’s.
What makes Mozgov one of the most polarizing Nuggets is the fact he’s a 27-year old veteran who, up to this point, has had an unremarkable NBA career. He is best known for being on the wrong end of some of the best posterizations in recent NBA history, but his greatest achievement might be his ability to captivate scouts and GM’s with the promise of big-man potential.
Mozgov is a favorite of new GM Tim Connelly, who accompanied him on a Basketball Without Borders trip to Russia in the summer of 2012. He’s also been a hot topic in trade rumors throughout his whole career and was pursued by a number of NBA teams in free agency. Even at 27 years old, teams are hot after talent in a 7-1, 250-pound frame and Mozgov’s physical gifts alone make him a rare commodity in today’s game. From that perspective, retaining Mozgov on a three-year deal with a team option in the third year may not be such a bad investment.
That is something the Nuggets are certainly betting on by clearing out Karl and Koufos to double down on the unproven Mozgov.
Mozgov only played a grand total 366 minutes last season, posting per-36 averages in line with the rest of his career. Because of his lack of on-court development, most of our scouting notes from last year’s #NuggetsRank also apply here. While Mozgov has looked like much more of a player in the international game, winning Bronze with Russia in the 2012 Olympics, he sat out international competition this summer to focus on training for an NBA contract stateside.
Had the Nuggets gone into the offseason with more of an idea of how to shore up the front court, the money spent on Mozgov could have gone towards adding a scoring threat in the post or a shot blocking specialist to provide reliable help. Instead, Denver’s new regime elected to bet big on Mozgov’s development without a clear idea of what he might provide. That is ultimately what makes him such an underwhelming addition and a consensus bottom four pick in our rankings.
In theory, Mozgov should be an impact player who defies his low ranking here in the upcoming season. In the much more likely reality, the 27-year old Mozgov is who he is after three years in the NBA: an average backup center who is now, for some reason, paid like a great one.
15. Anthony Randolph
14. Quincy Miller
13. Timofey Mozgov