On the night of the 2013 NBA Draft, the Denver Nuggets made their intentions at the center position very clear. As the Nuggets traded Kosta Koufos to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Darrell Arthur, Denver was showing their faith in JaVale McGee and tipping their hand that they will be giving McGee an increased workload in the upcoming season.
However, the move also signified the need to either sign another center to back up McGee or to re-sign restricted free-agent Timofey Mozgov. The Nuggets decided on the latter, agreeing to a three-year, $14 million contract with the Russian center on July 27.
With Koufos and McGee playing the bulk of the Nuggets’ minutes at center last season, Mozgov didn’t get much of an opportunity. The 27-year-old played in just 41 games, averaging only 2.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 0.4 blocks in 8.9 minutes per game while shooting 50.6 percent from the field. Over the three seasons and 130 games played Mozgov has logged in the Association, he has averaged 3.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in 12.1 minutes per game while shooting 50.5 percent from the floor.
15.6 minutes per game is the most that Mozgov has averaged in a season over his young career, which he logged in Denver in the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season. As McGee’s lone backup center this season, that’s probably about the workload he’s set to see, possibly seeing a few more minutes than that.
Mozgov has the potential to be a chink in this new-look Nuggets team’s armor. Mozgov has never shown great ability on the offensive end of the floor, though he is a solid rebounder and good-enough defensive player. He’s not been in the league long, but he’s never shown the ability to be a great backup in this league.
More than just Mozgov’s ability and the fact that he’s unproven is the fact that no one knows what to expect from McGee. Sure, McGee is athletic and entertaining, but he’s still relatively unproven in a larger role himself. The problem is that the Nuggets have to roll with him, for better or worse, because Mozgov is the only guy behind him.
Mozgov and McGee could both surprise us all this season and take great leaps forward. However, as the Nuggets try and maintain the momentum from their 57-win regular season last year, Mozgov and the center position raises quite a few questions.