In the opening hours of free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers acted extremely quickly in securing a new starting center, ultimately agreeing to a four-year deal with former Cleveland Cavaliers starter Timofey Mozgov.
Many were shocked that the Lakers would shell out so much money for someone who isn’t considered a top tier center in the NBA, but head coach Luke Walton sees Mozgov as a great fit for his offense and the anchor of the Lakers defense.
Despite Walton’s beliefs, however, some are still skeptical. ESPN’s Summer Forecast ranked Mozgov as the third worst newcomer in the NBA:
There was a time during the 2015 playoffs where Mozgov was being praised as one of the Cavs’ best players during their first run to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately for Mozgov, he rushed back from arthroscopic knee surgery at the beginning of the 2016 season and his mobility suffered because of it.
That, combined with Tyronn Lue taking over and wanting to push the ball more, led to a major reduction in Mozgov’s minutes and production. Needless to say, last year wasn’t Mozgov’s best, but there is still reason to believe he can return to form in Los Angeles.
After the failed Roy Hibbert experiment last year, Mozgov is still an upgrade at the center position. He is a very strong, physical presence down low and if he can patrol the paint effectively on defense, he and Julius Randle should control the boards and get the Lakers out in transition.
Maybe the Lakers could have waited a little longer in free agency and gotten someone like Ian Mahinmi or Festus Ezeli for cheaper, but waiting in free agency the last two seasons (due to being tied up with pursuing big name players) didn’t work out too well either so it’s hard to fault the Lakers for identifying their guys and going after them.
Mozgov may not be worth the $64 million the Lakers gave him, but there is a good chance he will be exactly what the Lakers need at the center position.