The Los Angeles Lakers surprised the NBA world when they opened up last summer’s free agency period by quickly agreeing to terms with center Timofey Mozgov. The hulking big man’s contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers had expired, and given the limited role he played for them off the bench during their championship run, it was a head scratcher when the Lakers gave him a contract for four years and $64 million.
Mozgov, who turned 30 just weeks after agreeing to the deal, was thought to be the kind of veteran mentor that the young Lakers needed, and his ability to set massive screens figured to compliment guards D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson. Still, even the most optimistic projects for Mozgov didn’t justify the amount of money being spent on him, and the number of years made it all the more questionable.
Despite the concerns over his deal, Mozgov put forth consistent effort during the season until the team decided to shut him down at the end of February to feed minutes to their younger players. Based on an interview with championat.com, the big man still hasn’t gotten over his benching:
“The coach told me about it before the game. It was a big surprise for me. Honestly, it was a surprise to everyone, even coach Walton. I still don’t understand what motivated the management to make such a decision. I did not try to find out the details. They don’t want to put me in, so I don’t want to also.”
At 7’1″ and 275 pounds, Mozgov finds himself in a league that has skewed towards smaller, more mobile bigs who have the ability to step out and defend the pick and roll. He averaged just over 20 minutes per game for the Lakers last season, producing 7.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks.
While his contract is a challenge, Mozgov still has value on the floor when other teams go big, and he could very well be the Lakers starting center at the beginning of next season. With youngster Ivica Zubac developing quickly and mobile bigs like Julius Randle, Tarik Black, and Thomas Robinson potentially still around, Mozgov could find himself in a fight next season to prove that he can still be a factor in the modern NBA.