NBA Free Agency and the Timofey Mozgov Era
Timofey Mozgov was a seven-foot-one center that played five years for the Denver Nuggets before being shipped to Cleveland during the 2014-15 season. The slow-footed Russian averaged less than seven points and five rebounds per game, but surrounded by a roster that included Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, and Lebron James, Mozgov fit right in.
The Cavaliers would end up losing in the NBA Finals, but Mozgov proved his worth by averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds in defeat, and the future looked bright.
Mozgov’s second year with Cleveland didn’t go quite as well.
While the Cavaliers would go to win the NBA Championship, Mozgov lost his starting job, fell out the everyday rotation, and would finish the season averaging just six points and four rebounds, playing only 17 minutes per game.
At the end of the season, Mozgov was an unrestricted Free Agent, trending the wrong way.
Enter the Los Angeles Lakers – a rebuilding franchise at the time, the Lakers saw Mozgov as the missing piece for their puzzle. Already positioned with young talent that included Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell, and Jordan Clarkson – Mozgov would be signed to inexplicable 4-year/$64 million contract.
Mozgov would finish his one and only Laker season averaging 7 points and 5 rebounds, playing just 20 minutes a night. A year later, Mozgov was out of the league.
With that being said, the word Mozgov is now used in various forms when discussing today’s NBA Free Agency.
• Mozgov – To sign a player to a ridiculous contract hoping for a miracle fix. (Example: The Cleveland Cavaliers went full Mozgov when they signed Georges Niang for 3-years/$26 million.)
• Mozgoved – To be the victim of a ridiculous contract, expecting much more from that player. (Example: Did the Houston Rockets make the right move by signing Jock Landale for 4-years/$32 million, or did the Rockets just get Mozgoved?)
• Mozgovish – A generic term for a strange acquisition or signing. (Example: The Denver Nuggets failed to re-sign Bruce Brown after the Indiana Pacers offered the former Nugget a Mozgovish– sized contract worth $45 million over the next two years.)
• Mozgovian – A time period or era during Free Agency in which everyone gets paid far too much, for far too little. (Example: In Mozgovian fashion, Max Strus accepted 4-year/$63 million to join the Cleveland Cavaliers.)
Welcome to 2023 NBA Free Agency – also known as – The Mozgovian Era.
• Signing Fred Vanvleet to a 3-year/$130 million contract isn’t quite Mozgov material considering the 29-year-old’s skillset, and Landale’s price tag of $8 million a year isn’t overly extravagant. But signing a defensive specialist like Dillon Brooks to a 4-year/$80 million contract, when trying to develop young players like Jalen Green, Amen Thompson, Kevin Porter Jr., and Jabari Smith Jr.? That’s Mozgoofy!
• Signing Kyrie Irving to a 3-year/$126 million contract is Mozgovish not because of Irving’s worth on the basketball court, but because of the risk factors. Irving demanded out of Cleveland, walked out in Boston, and quit on Brooklyn. Do you really think Kyrie will make it through an entire season without drama or a trade demand? Or even worse – Will Luka?
• The Los Angeles Lakers added Gabe Vincent (3-year/$33 million), while re-signing Austin Reaves (4-year/$56 million), Rui Hachimura (3-year/$51 million), and D’Angelo Russell (2-year/$37 million) to a roster that made the Western Conference Finals last season. Considering Russell’s performance (or lack thereof) against the Nuggets, D’Angelo’s contract could be in the Mozgov discussion. Until you rationalize that Russell isn’t even making Jakob Poeltl money (4-year/$80 million) these days.
• Not everyone can be as fortunate as Mozgov. The Clippers Mason Plumlee (1-year/$5 million), Raptors Jalen McDaniels (2-year/$9.3 million), Bulls Jevon Carter (3-year/$20 million), and Timberwolves Shake Milton (2-year/$10 million) – all have larger contracts than the one that Russell Westbrook just signed.
• Desmond Bane just finished his third NBA season and has career averages of 16 points and 3 assists per game. Bane has advanced past the first round of the playoffs just once. Bane has never made an ALL-NBA team, been voted on the All-Defensive team, and he has zero All-Star appearances. Bane’s 2023 season ended with a 125-85 playoff loss to the Lakers in which he scored just 15 points on 5 of 16 shooting and had a plus/minus of -30.
The Grizzlies Mozgoved him with an extension worth $207 million over the next five years.
It’s unlikely that Desmond Bane will replace Timofey Mozgov as the face of poor contracts. But don’t be surprised if the Celtics get Porzinguished, the Hornets LaMeloed, or the Pacers get Haliburnt.
As long as the Nuggets don’t get MPJ’d.
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