The Nuggets have traded Timofey Mozgov to the Cavs, the teams officially announced. Mozgov heads to Cleveland in exchange for the Grizzlies’ 2015 first-round pick and the Thunder’s 2015 first-round pick, both of which carry protections. The Nuggets send Cleveland the less favorable of the Bulls’ 2015 second-round pick and the Blazers’ 2015 second-round pick. The Cavs are using the $5,285,816 Keith Bogans trade exception to absorb Mozgov’s $4.65MM salary. Cleveland had been carrying 14 players, so the Cavs won’t have to make a corresponding move.
Cleveland’s monthslong pursuit of the Nuggets center had lately progressed to “serious off-and-on” talks, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote earlier this week. Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio heard recently that the Cavs were no longer receiving a “flat no” from Denver. Mozgov has a $4.95MM team option for next season, which gives whichever team holds his rights a degree of flexibility. The 28-year-old has started all 35 games for Denver this season, but the Nuggets had been drawing closer to the realization that they don’t have a true chance to make the playoffs this year, as Lowe also wrote this week.
The Cavs had also reportedly targeted Kosta Koufos, a backup center for the Grizzlies, but the need to acquire a starting-caliber pivot grew when Anderson Varejao was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Cleveland used the disabled player exception the league granted to compensate for that loss to accommodate Monday’s trade for J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, leaving the Bogans trade exception available for the Cavs to nab Mozgov, as I explained. Cleveland also acquired the Thunder’s first-round pick in Monday’s trade and used it to strengthen the package for Mozgov, which was key in convincing Denver to make the move, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports writes. Denver can create a trade exception worth $4.65MM, the equivalent of Mozgov’s salary.
The Nuggets will get the Grizzlies’ first-rounder this year if it falls from pick No. 6 to pick No. 14. The same protection is in place for 2016, as Wojnarowski lays out in his story. The protection is only for the top five picks the following two years, and it’s unprotected for 2019, Wojnarowski adds. The Thunder’s pick is top-18 protected this year, top-15 protected in 2016 and 2017, and would become a pair of second-round selections if not conveyed by then, Wojnarowski notes.
Mozgov is in his first year as a full-time starter, averaging 8.5 points, a career-high 7.8 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in 25.6 minutes per game. He’s not among the league leaders in any traditional category, including blocks per contest, but he gives the Cavs the serviceable rim-protector they’ve lacked since the start of the season. The Nuggets, who first acquired Mozgov in the 2011 Carmelo Anthony trade, receive two picks and the trade exception, assets the team can use to navigate the stacked Western Conference, where their 15-20 record has them in 11th place and five games out of a playoff spot. Teams have been reluctant to part with first-rounders, especially during the season, in recent years, so Nuggets GM Tim Connelly comes away with an unusual haul.
Wojnarowski reported in August that the Cavs and GM David Griffin had offered a first-round pick for the 7’1″ center, but the Nuggets resisted, seemingly hopeful that Mozgov would help them make a run to the postseason. The move clears space in Denver’s lineup for the team’s plentiful other big men, including this year’s first-round pick, Jusuf Nurkic, who’s seen only 13.4 MPG so far.
Photo courtesy USA Today Sports Images. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports first reported the teams had reached an agreement in principle, while Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reported earlier that the sides were in advanced discussions and on course to complete a deal today. Wojnarowski reported the Cavs would send out the Grizzlies’ 2015 first-rounder and the Thunder’s 2015 first-rounder (on Twitter), while Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal reported that the Cavs would receive a second-round pick (Twitter link).