On Tuesday, longtime LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers reporter Brian Windhorst made an appearance on ESPN Cleveland radio and dropped the following Nuggets-related tidbit:
The guy the Cavs are trying to trade for is Tim[ofey] Mozgov from the Denver Nuggets. He played with David [Blatt] with the Russian national team… They have been trying to trade for him for the last six, eight weeks… That’s the guy they want to get their hands on.
After the breakout season Mozgov had last year it’s understandable how most fans would harbor an aversion to this news. I too would like to see Mozgov in a Nuggets uniform for two more years, the length of his current contract. But if I’m Tim Connelly, I’m listening to what David Griffin has to say on the phone. Here’s three reasons why…
1. The Nuggets have a surplus of big men. Count: Timofey Mozgov, JaVale McGee, Jusuf Nurkic, Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, J.J. Hickson, Jerrelle Benimon. That’s seven power forwards and centers, not to mention guys like Quincy Miller and Danilo Gallinari, both at least 6-9 and capable of playing power forward for extended stretches at a time. Include those two and the Nuggets are up to nine players who can pass as power forwards or centers. If you’re following the basic math I’ve presented (can you even call it that?) then you understand why the Nuggets should listen to the Cavs: numbers. Pure numbers. The Nuggets have enough of one thing (bigs) to consider listening when people inquire about them.
2. Jusuf Nurkic is a manchild superhuman cyborg titan god poised to devour all things living, deceased or in between on his way to dominance in the NBA. OK, maybe not. But I’d like to think this is the case. Based on his numbers throughout his early and precocious career, you have to think this is the case. And he’s heading to Denver this year. Why, therefore, should he sit around all year behind Mozgov and McGee if he’s as talented as we (meaning I) think he is? People learn to swim best by being thrown in a bottomless pool knowing the only way to survive is to stay afloat. Learning to play basketball at an NBA pace is no different. Nurkic needs to be thrown in the fire. He needs to hit the ground running — or at least trying to run. He is clearly the Nuggets’ center of the future; why bench him for an entire season? As much as I love Mozgov’s defense and improvement over the last year, he’s also 28 years old. Nurkic turned 20 last week. Start JaVale McGee at center, bring Nurkic off the bench, watch him develop, work out his growing pains, improve. It’s the best way to move forward.
3. Mozgov’s value has never been higher. For all we know this is the highest it will ever get. With so many solid bigs on the roster, including two centers, the Nuggets are in pole position, stocked with assets, poised to parlay their chips into prized winnings — if they’re savvy enough. The Nuggets should not accept an average haul for Mozgov. They need some significant goods in return. The Cavs don’t have many players to offer, but they do have draft picks, and lots of them. If the Cavs offer one of their more appealing first-round draft picks, the Nuggets should listen. And if the Nuggets can’t find what they’re looking for from the Cavs, the shouldn’t hesitate to seek out a third party with more intriguing resources.
To be clear: In no way am I advocating for trading Timofey Mozgov just to trade him. The Nuggets are a much better team with him than without him. If no deal gets consummated, I consider that a win for the Nuggets. What I’m suggesting is that the Nuggets at least listen, listen good and hard. Are the Cavs desperate? Are they willing to trade more than what Mozgov is worth? How hard are they pushing to get a deal done? Are they becoming myopic? Determined? Obsessive? If this is the case, the Nuggets might be wise to oblige. As we fortunately witnessed in the Carmelo Anthony saga, a team consumed by the quest to obtain one player sometimes overvalues that asset and in turn surrenders much more than they should. Perhaps Tim Connelly can coax the Cavs into a similar situation? Given the Nuggets depth, Mozgov’s value and the Cavs’ insistence on completing a trade, Tim Connelly doesn’t appear to have much to lose.