No, this is not a discussion on what is known as global warming, but merely a discussion I think many in Nugget Nation are torn on. We have two big, white, stiff centers on the roster, and one of them should be the starting center.
This position is obviously our main weakness this season. However there are two guys here who have the potential to be really good centers in this league. They are the scratch-off tickets of the Denver Nuggets, and they are Timofey Mozgov and Kostas Koufos.
Timofey Mozgov- PER 36: 10.2 PPG - 8.8 RPG - 49.1 FG% - Ht: 7'1 Wt: 250 lbs
You can't fault Mozgov for getting his minutes to see whether or not he is really starting center quality, he's averaging 16.6 minutes a game. What we have seen from him however are things that you expect from big and slow stiffs. One is that he has been what we thought he has been, in that he is big, clogs the lane, and is a body to put on opposing centers. He was burned constantly against a rusty Andrew Bynum earlier this season and when Kostas came in to fill the 4 spot for Nene during his minor injury we had seen Kostas simply out-perform Timofey Mozgov. So when Nene came back from injury there were many in the Denver Stiffs community raising their torches for Mozgov to be benched. Then all of a sudden, when all hope was perished for the 7'1'' machine from Russia, the Heat came to town. He put up 12 points and 8 rebounds in 24 minutes of playing time and simply scored at will against the Heat front court.
You have a choice, Nugget fan. The Red ball, or the Blue ball?
Kostas Koufos- PER 36: 13.4 PPG - 12.3 RPG - 68.1 FG% - Ht: 7'0 Wt: 265 lbs
Look out Kyle Orton, there is a new neck beard in town! Looking at just their PER 36 stats, we can see that Kostas Koufos, despite only being in nine games this season and only averaging 10.1 minutes per game on those nine occasions has been superior to Mozgov in stats. Of course PER 36 stats dilute themselves the more a player clocks in during a game due to stamina and random elements during a game, but if we were to imagine Kosta and his stats to dilute a bit and he played 20 minutes a game, they would still be pretty damn impressive. His last impact role however was during the Hornets game we won. He put in 8 points, and 5 rebounds in 17 minutes of work. Still I don't think that the thought of injecting Kostas into the starting lineup has left some of the more thoughtful Nuggets faithful. The Greek project also is only 22 years old and has shown a lot more potential than the 25 year old Mozgov. So going by that, putting Kostas in for experience might pay more dividends down the road simply because there is more to grow.
What it really boils down to is, who brings more intangibles? Well first off, there are things we look for in centers not designed for scoring, which we will look at right now.
1. Blocking Out
Dennis Rodman (Kenneth Faried take note) was the best rebounder of the modern era. I don't think he got more than three inches off the floor on most of those boards. Everybody wants to sky for boards nowadays. This is one of the little disciplines that has fallen by the wayside. You know who is usually hardest to rebound against on the playground? Pound-for-pound it's the women, because usually women with enough confidence to come out and mix it up with the guys have played organized ball somewhere, and that means they learned to block out. The guys may be bigger and stronger and jump higher, but it doesn't matter when she's throwing the body into you the right way. (I've seen more weekend warriors reduced to passive perimeter observers that way. Quite a blow to the old ego...) Someday one of these kids is going to figure out there's about 20 rebounds a game and the attending multi-million dollar contract to be had out there simply by putting your body in the right place when the ball goes up. How do you think Kevin Love gets so many rebounds?
Going back and re-watching the games, I found that in the limited times I saw of Kosta, was that he boxed out the opposing center like 80% of the time and did a solid job at it. Mozgov on the other hand was too close to the opposing center when the opposing center had the ball at the top of the key. I'd say he clocked in about 50% of boxing out the opposing center. Teams tend to want the opposing center to come and man up on their center when he is at the top of the key with the ball waiting for guards to cut to the hoop, this allows more space for the guard if he makes his cut correctly; because with the opposing center not defending the paint, it allows for less chances of a shot block and more chances of an easy lay in.
So Kostas wins this one. Kosta-1 Mozgov- 0
2. Setting/Using Screens
With the pick and roll such a staple in NBA offenses, it's horrendous how poorly many players run the play! Big guys don't stand in strong, either offering a token presence or setting hard but then rolling for their own shot before the guard gets by. And guards often don't come anywhere near the screener off the dribble. Utah prospered for more than a decade largely off of this one set with Malone and Stockton. And that was with everybody and their uncle knowing what they were going to run! Part of it was talent, but I also heard that Jerry Sloan used to make his guys run the play over and over, jumping down their throats if the pick was slow and soft or the guard didn't brush the big guy on his way by. This is where guys like Mozgov and Kostas can really help your offense even if they're not volume scorers themselves.
Mozgov is a very sloppy screener, this is why George Karl does not set that many screens with him in, simply because he sets too soon and positions for too short of time. Kostas on the other end (he set two screens this year) was positioned for the right amount of time during the screenings, which allowed for I believe Lawson it was to have more spread on the dribble over. There is too little sample size in their screening abilities to make an accurate assessment, but I'd say Kostas appears to know how to screen better than Mozgov.
3. Drawing Charges
The point here is not so much forcing the turnover, though that is nice. If a guy draws charges it means one of two things: he's either helping out quickly and decisively in the halfcourt defensive set (you seldom draw charges on your own man) or he's hustling his butt back in transition. You need both of those to make a defensive scheme work. It also shows that a player is aware of more than just his own assignment and has a good sense of what's happening on the floor.
Mozgov has drawn a few charges this year, which showcases that he has a bit of basketball I.Q for a center, Kosta on the other hand seems to be more occupied on positioning for rebounding, which isn't a bad thing at all, but he hasn't showcased that he can draw charges and is unaware of the situations during a set-play. I think this is the one thing from Mozgov I've been impressed with this year.
Mozgov- 1 Kosta-2
Ok, this has nothing to do with basketball, but I'm hungry and I've never eaten a Russian dish nor a Greek dish in my life ... even though I'm willing to try. If anyone can convince me which culinary is better, I will swing the favor towards Mozgov or Kosta. Russia and Greek have been in diplomatic relations for over 160 years, for those who want to know a random fact.
Overall though, I believe Kosta should be starting, and don't deny it because it is the truth.
What do you guys think?
Tim, why are we on the court? Remember George Karl's curfew?