One shot vodka and about three shots of disappointment.
Last year, when the Denver Nuggets were working their trade of Carmelo Anthony for Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Danilo Gallinari, they insisted the Knicks include young Russian center Timofey Mozgov in the deal. Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri were convinced that Mozgov's upside (regardless of being posterized by Blake Griffin) was worth holding out for. More than a year later and deep into the 2011-12 season, has Mozgov lived up to the player that Kroenke and Ujiri believed they saw?
Like many other Stiffs, I was thrilled that Mozgov was included in the deal. "Finally!", I thought, "The Nuggets have some real size aside from Chris Andersen and Nene!" George Karl's coaching aside, I was excited to see the young Russian's play on the court. With the acquisition of Gallinari and the addition of Kosta Koufos (as a seeming throw-in with the Melo trade), the Nuggets could now - theoretically - field an extremely tall and big lineup to counter the bigs of the Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks. Long we lamented the inability of the Nuggets to truly meet the size of these annual Western Conference heavyweights. Now, the Nuggets would be able to field legitimate big bodies to go against the likes of Andrew Bynum, Dirk Nowitzki, and Tim Duncan.
With just 15 games left to play in the lockout-shortened season, Timofey Mozgov has been by most accounts a massive disappointment, nowhere near the player the Nuggets were so eager to acquire:
Statistically, Mozgov is by far the worst center on the Nuggets roster. He's got the worst effective field goal percentage (taking into account free throws), the lowest PER, the lowest offensive rating, and tied for the worst defensive rating. He has slightly more rebounds and blocks per game than Koufos, but he is also playing almost four minutes more per contest. Andersen and Koufos would almost certainly put Mozgov's minutes to better use.
Statistics aside, many amongst the Denver Stiffs crowd know that those stats just reinforce what their eyes tell them; that Mozgov is not a reliable option on either side of the court. He is constantly out of position on the defensive end, fumbles the ball away when fed with easy passes on offense, and does not seem to realize that at 7-feet tall, he should be collecting more than 1 rebound in twelve minutes. Not only that, I'm almost certain that he leads the league in defensive three second violations per game. Worse, he's not showing any improvement in the areas he desperately needs to, namely defense and rebounding.
Timofey? The reason why nobody gets you the ball in the paint when you act like a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man in the paint is because you have "hands of beets" (thanks, SDCat).
In my opinion, when the Nuggets made their last-minute deal of Nene for Javale McGee, it was as much a referendum on Mozgov's poor play as it was on Nene's. I strongly believe that Ujiri and Kroenke thought that Mozgov would have improved with increased minutes in Denver (Mozgov's playing 16.4 MPG this season, the most of his career) and become the next starting center for this team. Despite his repeated ankle injuries and inconsistent play, Karl has shown a lot of faith in Mozgov, and continues to give him playing time - to the detriment of the team. However, last night, Timofey Mozgov recorded a DNP-CD against the Charlotte Bobcats.
Did anyone actually miss him?
To me, the acquisition of McGee sent a message to the rest of the Nuggets and their fans: we don't believe that Mozgov has what it takes to be the dominant big man we believed he might become. For better or for worse, McGee has supplanted Mozgov as the "big man of the future", replaced Mozgov in the starting lineup, and Mozgov's future with the Nuggets appears to be in serious jeopardy. Mozgov is still young, and could improve beyond what he's shown so far, but I am very doubtful that he has either the mental fortitude or physical ability to make the drastic improvements to his game needed to be a starting center in the NBA.
Don't get me wrong. I was excited as anyone to see Mozgov succeed and become the hulking bruiser Nuggets fans so desperately wanted. Mozgov's been given his opportunities. As of now, he's failed to show that he deserves any more of them.