A year ago, Omer Asik was coming off two seasons in Chicago in which he averaged 2.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, a .529 FG%, and a 12.6 PER in 13.2 minutes per game. Despite the pedesterian numbers, Asik was considered a big man with upside, and earned a three-year, $25MM contract from the Rockets. He lived up to that $8.3MM annual salary in his first season in Houston, starting all 82 games and averaging a double-double.
Timofey Mozgov isn't exactly the same type of player as Asik, but there are certainly plenty of similarities between the two bigs. Mozgov was considered a crucial piece in the blockbuster trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to New York two seasons ago, but with JaVale McGee and Kosta Koufos ahead of him in the Nuggets' rotation, Mozgov hasn't seen a whole lot of playing time over the last two years. Since the start of the 2011/12 season, Mozgov's averages look similar to Asik's in Chicago: 4.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, a .520 FG%, and a 12.9 PER in 12.3 MPG.
Like Asik a year ago, Mozgov will be eligible for restricted free agency this summer. While it was a no-brainer for the Bulls to extend a qualifying offer to Asik to ensure they could match rival offers (even though the team ultimately decided not to match Houston's offer), that's not necessarily the case for the Nuggets and Mozgov. At least one report has suggested Mozgov will receive a qualifying offer from Denver, but that was met with some skepticism from at least one reporter, and it's not hard to see why.
Assuming Andre Iguodala opts out of his 2013/14 contract in search of a long-term deal, the Nuggets will still have approximately $52MM in guaranteed money on their books before attempting to negotiate new contracts for Iguodala and Corey Brewer. If the team hopes to bring back both players, or even just Iguodala, it's unclear if Mozgov's $3.93MM qualifying offer will be an affordable expense for a team that figures to steer clear of the luxury tax.
Still, the Nuggets have shown they're willing to pay big bucks to a player who essentially amounts to a backup center (McGee). Perhaps the risk of Mogov accepting that $3.93MM qualifying offer will be outweighed by the desire to keep a valuable asset under team control. After all, based on the amount of interest reported in Mozgov at the trade deadline, it seems there will be plenty of suitors for the big man, both this summer and perhaps in a trade at next year's deadline.
The list of potential suitors for Mozgov figures to include his old team, as the Knicks' interest was reported both before and after the trade deadline. The Timberwolves also reportedly made a play for Mozgov, with the Bobcats and Heat making inquiries as well. Not all of those clubs will be able to make big offers for the Russian this summer -- New York and Miami, for instance, will both be taxpayers, meaning the mini mid-level exception (up to three years and $9.98MM) will be the most they can offer, and that's assuming they make Mozgov their top free agent priority, which may be unlikely.
For a team like the Bobcats though, pursuing a player such as Mozgov would make a lot of sense. Charlotte has plenty of cap space at its disposal, but is unlikely to be in the mix for any premier free agents, based on the team's record and history. So why not make a play for a young big man with upside like Mozgov? The bidding for the Nuggets center probably won't reach Asik territory, meaning an offer like the one the Hornets gave Robin Lopez last season (three years, $15.36MM) might be enough to get something done, and avoid the Nuggets matching. In that scenario, Mozgov would get some long-term security and a nice payday, while the Bobcats (or a similar lottery-bound team with cap room) would get the chance to roll the dice on a player who could thrive with more playing time. And at that price, the contract wouldn't become too toxic an asset even if Mozgov struggled.
It's hard to get a strong read on Mozgov's free agent value, given how little we've seen of him on the court in the NBA. I don't expect him to be quite the prize that Asik was last year, but if Mozgov receives an offer that seems disproportionate to his career production, we shouldn't be surprised. The 26-year-old didn't get a real chance to shine in Denver, but a player with his combination of size and promise won't go unnoticed on the open market.
Having already examined free-agents-to-be on postseason teams at each of the other four positions, Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld turns his attention to the playoff centers heading for free agency this summer. Here are a few highlights from his piece:
Timofey Mozgov's name surfaced in a handful of trade rumors prior to this year's deadline, as the big man reportedly drew interest from the Timberwolves, Knicks, Heat, and Bobcats, among others. Ultimately, the Nuggets held on to Russian, and it sounds like the team will do its best to retain him beyond this season. Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reports that Denver will tender a qualifying offer to Mozgov prior to this June's deadline.
The qualifying offer, which would be worth $3,925,536 for one year, makes Mozgov a restricted free agent. He'd have the option of accepting the Nuggets' one-year offer, negotiating a longer-term deal with Denver, or signing an offer sheet with another club. If he were to sign an offer sheet, the Nuggets would have three days to match it, which Haynes suggests is likely. "Mozgov is a priority and it will take a lot [for the Nuggets] not to match," according to Haynes' source.
Mozgov, 26, has averaged less than nine minutes per game in 40 contests for the Nuggets this season as the third-string center behind Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee. Despite his lack of playing time, the big man figures to draw plenty of interest on the free agent market due to the potential he has displayed in limited minutes. While I don't expect him to land the sort of salary Omer Asik received the Rockets last summer, Mozgov's free agent case could be similar, with a team gambling on his upside rather than his overall production to date.
If the Nuggets hope to retain Mozgov and stay below the tax line, it may require some additional roster maneuvering. Assuming Andre Iguodala opts in to the final year of his deal, Denver already has close to $68MM committed to 11 players for 2013/14. That total doesn't include salaries for Mozgov or Corey Brewer, who will also be a free agent.
Timofey Mozgov is averaging fewer than 10 minutes per game this season for the Nuggets, but there was no shortage of teams pursuing him at the trade deadline, as we heard the Heat, Timberwolves, Bobcats and Knicks were after the 7'1" center. New York, the team that originally brought Mozgov to the NBA from Russia, maintains its interest in Mozgov as he approaches restricted free agency this summer, according to Mark Berman of the New York Post (Sulia link).
Berman followed up on his report last night that Mozgov is fond of his time with the Knicks, the team with which he spent half a season before going to the Nuggets in the Carmelo Anthony trade. Still, Mozgov didn't say New York has a leg up on any other team as he considers where to sign, which makes sense given the Knicks' financial constraints.
The Knicks will likely be more than $4MM over the tax threshold this summer, meaning they'll be ineligible to receive players in a sign-and-trade and couldn't offer Mozgov more than the taxpayer's mid-level exception. That exception allows for a three-year deal with a starting salary of $3.183MM next season, and based on the number of teams that seemed eager to take him on at the deadline, Mozgov could field better offers in the summer. Berman argues that his lack of playing time this year has likely depressed his market value, but Mozgov is only a season removed from his career year in 2011/12, when he started 35 games and averaged 5.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game in 44 total contests.
The Nuggets will have the right to match any offer as long as they extend a qualifying offer, and they might be tempted to match the limited contract the Knicks could put on the table. They weren't willing to trade Mozgov this season unless they received an overwhelming offer, even though the team's other centers, JaVale McGee and Kosta Koufos, both have guaranteed deals for next season.
The Nets and Knicks won't meet again in the regular season, but they are still on a collision course all the same, writes Howard Beck of the New York Times. Regardless of how things break for New York, they could find themselves with some difficult matchups in the postseason besides Brooklyn. The Knicks have struggled against the Pacers (1-2) and the Bulls (0-3), while the Nets (2-2) and the Celtics (1-1) have given them trouble. Here's more out of MSG..
Shortly after the trade deadline passed at 3pm ET on Thursday, it was revealed that the Hawks pulled out of discussions with the Bucks on a deal for Josh Smith. This would-be blockbuster was not the only deal that was discussed but never came to fruition. Here is a roundup of other deals that were discussed but never came to pass:
Most recently, we heard that the Heat had expressed interest in Mozgov, who is headed for free agency this summer. The 26-year-old has also been linked to the Timberwolves, Knicks, and Bobcats this week.
The Heat have expressed interest in Timofey Mozgov, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter). However, Wojnarowski adds that it's "hard to see a path" to a deal between the two teams.
Because Mozgov is earning about $3.14MM this season, the Heat would have to send out $2.5MM+ to make a deal work. They could offer Norris Cole, James Jones, and a draft pick, but the Nuggets probably wouldn't have much use for Cole or Jones' contract, which includes a player option for next season.
The Bobcats engaged in talks with the Nuggets for Timofey Mozgov and the Trail Blazers for J.J. Hickson, but neither discussion gained any traction, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter). Wojnarowski reports that Gerald Henderson would have been an outgoing piece for Charlotte in both scenarios.
This isn't the first time we've heard about the Bobcats attempting to deal from their shooting guard depth in an effort to land a big man -- the club reportedly explored a Ben Gordon/Kris Humphries swap with the Nets, though those talks didn't get serious. Gordon and Humphries both have one more expensive season remaining on their contracts, while Henderson, Mozgov, and Hickson are all on expiring deals.
Despite the fact that Mozgov and Hickson are heading for free agency this summer, it appears neither player will come cheap in a trade. The Nuggets reportedly turned down an offer from the Timberwolves for Mozgov that included a first-round pick. Meanwhile, Hickson has the ability to veto any trade, so it's probably unlikely that he'd be willing to give up his Bird Rights to be sent to the NBA's worst team.
Here's the latest on the Timberwolves from Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities....