Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin has been a busy man this week, upgrading his roster significantly far before the NBA Trade Deadline in February. Just days after acquiring J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, it is being reported the Cavaliers have acquired big man Timofey Mozgov from the Denver Nuggets.
According to Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst of ESPN, “The Cavs will send a future pick they own from the Memphis Grizzlies from a 2013 trade and a first-rounder they acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier this week in a deal involving Dion Waiters. In addition to Mozgov, the Cavs also get a 2015 second-round pick in return.”
In desperate need for a rim protector, the Cavaliers have coveted Mozgov for quite some time—and talks reportedly intensified after the team lost Anderson Varejao to injury earlier this season.
All-Star LeBron James shared his thoughts on the deal, stating, “It’s something that we need. It’s something that once Andy went down, it was something obviously we needed to get bigger in the interior and adding a guy like that who can protect the rim, it will help our team as well. So, we’ll see. Those are three pieces that can help us, but until we all get healthy and get on the floor together, we won’t be able to know.”
Standing 7’1” and 250 pounds, the 28-year old Mozgov is comically known around the league as the guy Blake Griffin put on a poster a few years back. However, he is much more than a guy who was dunked on by Griffin—as he has solidified himself as a solid interior defender and high energy guy over the past couple of seasons.
When you just look at his statistics, Mozgov isn’t going to jump off the paper. But the way he impacts the game doesn’t come up in the box score, it shows up when you watch it. His length redirects shots, forces teams out of the paint and his energy wears down opponents in the down low.
In 35 games this season, Mozgov is averaging 25.6 minutes per night (career high), shooting 50.4 percent from the floor and shooting 73.3 percent from the free throw line. He is also averaging 8.5 points, 7.8 rebounds (career high) and 1.2 blocks (tied for career high) per game. His block total per night is currently good for No. 31 in the NBA.
The acquisition of Mozgov is a big one for Griffin and the Cavaliers. Despite the misconception that the “Cavaliers gave up a lot” for him, the price of two protected first-round picks for a big man who can change the way teams attack was an easy one for the team to pay. So let’s stop with the “panic” in regard to trading two first-round picks.
One of the first-round picks traded was the one acquired earlier this week for Waiters. This pick is Top 18 protected in the 2015 draft, and Top 15 protected in 2016 and 2017. If not acquired by then, it turned into two second-round picks in 2018.
For those of you upset about trading this pick, let’s take a look at some of the players selected 16 through 19 over the past couple of seasons.
In the 2014 NBA Draft: Jusuf Nurkic, James Young and Tyler Ennis were selected with those picks, respectively. In the 2013 NBA Draft: Lucas Nogueirra, Dennis Schroder and Shane Larkin went. In the 2012 NBA Draft: Royce White, Tyler Zeller (remember him?) and Terrence Jones.
I would continue on, but you get the point—none of those players are world beaters or can’t miss prospects. Instead, most of them are role players or raw prospects with upside NBA scouts really liked. With all due respect, why would you be upset about trading a pick that not only will not impact the team this season, but likely would not impact the team for three more years—if ever?
Now, let’s examine the Fort Knox pick that was the second first-round pick in this deal. Acquired from the Memphis Grizzlies in 2013 along with Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Shelby for JON LEUER, the opportunity for the Cavaliers to get this pick before 2017 was almost non-existent.
First off, the Cavaliers were not eligible to receive the pick until 2015 at the earliest after acquiring it. The pick could only go to the Cavaliers if it fell between picks 6-14 in 2015 and 2016. In 2017 and 2018 it was only Top 5 protected, and then it was unprotected finally in 2019.
The Grizzlies are currently one of the top teams in the west and do not look to be going anywhere soon, so the pick would likely not been available until 2017. At that point and time, unless something major happens you are still talking about a pick that would likely fall No. 20 or later—once again putting the team in the same boat as the Oklahoma City Thunder selection.
For a city that is used to the value of first-round picks in the NFL Draft for the Browns, let me put it simple—these aren’t NFL first-round picks. Honestly in the scheme of both games, a late first-round pick is probably more like a fifth or sixth-round NFL pick—players that you hope to contribute one day or you take a chance on because of raw potential.
Overall, Griffin did a very good job in filling holes for this team—contrary to what some people think. Smith is a veteran shooter who can fill it up off the bench when motivated, who also has playoff experience. Shumpert, once he is healthy, is the on-ball wing defender the Cavaliers desperately needed—and is only 24-years old. Finally, Mozgov is the interior defender and energy guy the Cavaliers have needed since the offseason, and they can keep him on their roster with a team option of $4.9 million for next season.
At the end of the day it is simple. The mindset of the Cavaliers and their fans changed drastically James decided to come back to Cleveland. That new mindset was accelerated even further the day they traded Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love.
All of this is being done to become a playoff and championship contender. So forget about the draft picks and quit talking about next year. The days of rebuilding for the Cavaliers have come and gone, now the focus is on finding the right pieces to contribute next to the team’s star-studded trio.