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.