Trade Candidate: Timofey Mozgov

January 29 2013 at 2:47pm CST By Luke Adams

There are plenty of big names rumored to be on the trade block as we approach this year's deadline, including Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol. Other players, such as Jose Calderon and J.J. Redick, are intriguing not just because of their expiring contracts, but because they could be the final piece of the puzzle for a contending team.

Timofey Mozgov, like Calderon and Redick, is on an expiring contract, but he's unlikely to be a real game-changer if he's moved at the deadline. Still, Grantland's Zach Lowe referred to the Nuggets big man as one of the league's "most available" players back in December, so that certainly makes him a trade candidate, even if he's not one of the more exciting ones out there.

Mozgov, 26, initially came to the Nuggets two years ago as part of the blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks. While Mozgov was hardly the centerpiece of that trade, he was a piece the Nuggets insisted be included, due to a belief that he could develop into a solid big man. While the Russian has shown flashes of that promise in his two seasons with the Nuggets, there just aren't enough minutes to go around anymore now that Denver's frontline includes JaVale McGee and Kosta Koufos, two young centers that have outproduced Mozgov.

Mozgov's best season came in 2011/12, when he averaged 5.4 PPG and 4.1 RPG while playing 15.6 minutes per contest. Those numbers won't turn many heads, but Mozgov's per-minute rates were solid, and he started 35 of his 44 games for the Nuggets, meaning he wasn't just playing against other teams' second-stringers. At 7'1", he should certainly have some appeal to teams in need of size in the middle, and according to Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post, Denver has been fielding plenty of calls about Mozgov since the beginning of the season.

One team that's been linked to Mozgov as a potential suitor is the Heat, a club that could use one more big body in the frontcourt to help Chris Bosh and its bigs shoulder the rebounding load. But as Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports Florida pointed out earlier this month, there's not a perfect match between the two teams. Norris Cole, Miami's most appealing trade asset, doesn't fill a need for a Nuggets team that has Ty Lawson and Andre Miller at the point, and Cole's modest salary wouldn't be enough to match Mozgov's $3.14MM mark. I'm sure the Nuggets, who could use a shooter, would love to add Ray Allen ($3.09MM), but that's not the sort of price the Heat would want to pay for Mozgov.

Besides Miami, there are no particularly obvious suitors for Mozgov. The Warriors could be a fit if Andrew Bogut continues to be nagged by injuries, and the Celtics could use another big. But both teams are up against hard caps, making it difficult to add any salary, and Boston's plans have likely changed now that Rajon Rondo is out for the season. The Suns and Rockets, with cap space to absorb Mozgov's salary, could kick the tires — if they were to acquire Mozgov and liked what they saw over the season's final couple months, they'd have the first crack to re-sign him in July.

As Dempsey wrote in his previously-linked piece, Mozgov appears unlikely to remain in Denver past February 21st, simply because the Nuggets don't have room for him in their rotation. Nonetheless, it doesn't seem as if there will be a huge market for the big man. If he's moved and it's not part of a bigger deal, it's probably unrealistic to expect Denver to land much more than a second-round pick or a borderline rotation player in return.

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