When the Brooklyn Nets acquired D’Angelo Russell from the Los Angeles Lakers, Timofey Mozgov was widely viewed as a salary cap casualty. The only way for the Lakers to relinquish the 21-year-old Russell would be for the Nets to eat the remainder of Mozgov’s four-year, $64 million deal, which he signed last summer.
Mozgov, with three years left on the deal, has more to offer the Nets than an expensive seat-filler, though. Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson worked with Mozgov when he was still a member of the New York Knicks–and Atkinson an assistant coach. Additionally, Mozgov is still just 30 years old. While Mozgov will not have the kind of offensive impact that Brook Lopez had for so many years, he is a solid center who can clog the paint and play effectively in the pick-and-roll.
“Timmy fits perfectly; he’s a competitive player,” Atkinson said. “He’s a guy that loves to run the court. He’s a physical player. I think he rolls to the rim in the pick-and-roll, which we love. But really at the end of the day, I love the person.”
Mozgov also brings one unique attribute to Brooklyn: he’s the only Net to have won a championship. Mozgov inked his monster deal with the Lakers following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ championship season in 2015-16. The situation that unfolded in Los Angeles is certainly not indicative of the center’s declining skills. Since the Lakers needed their draft pick to land in the top three, they started tanking early in the year. Mozgov and fellow veteran Luol Deng were shut down in favor of rookies–for tryout purposes and to ensure a losing record.
While Mozgov is certainly not a long-term answer at the position, he can provide productivity while the team grooms its No. 22 overall draft pick, Jarrett Allen. Allen played one year at Texas before declaring for the NBA Draft. While he sports impressive attributes–like his wingspan and size–he is sitting out the Las Vegas Summer League while nursing a hip injury. Even though the injury is not considered serious, it would be optimistic to expect Allen to slide right into the starting lineup and play 30 minutes a game. Atkinson and his staff will likely bring him along slowly, in much the same way they did Caris LeVert.
In the meantime, Mozgov should shoulder the load. “I met with the coach and discussed some aspects of the upcoming season,” Mozgov told Russian newspaper Izvestia. “From the conversation, it became clear that I would spend a lot of time on the court, and the team will play fast basketball.”
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