I am writing this article to elucidate to Nuggets fans what we need to be advocating for going forward. This is a springboard off of another article I wrote halfway through the year last year about comparing Mozgov and Koufos. I feel compelled to write another because of the comments about the center position.
Here are the ranks of current centers according to my perceptions, subjective feel, popular opinion and PER. PER as discussed is a mostly offensive statistic and needs to be treated as such. It is of course susceptible to error and all judgments need to include other sources. However for the sake of our argument and my limited time this is what we are using.
Howard and Bynum are clearly the best. I would argue that Duncan, Chandler and Dalembert are declining mostly because of age and should be rated a bit lower than young guys because of that. I would much rather have McGee at 24 than Gortat at 28, especially with the negligible stat difference.
As such here is my list of centers incorporating what I know about them defensively and overall impact on their team. I ranked them by tiers (and numerically within the tiers) as there seems to be some large differences in value.
Duncan (how good can a center be at 36?)
Cousins (excluded from tier one for being crazy)
Jefferson (excluded from tier one for poor defense)
Noah (this high for defense, energy and intangibles)
Gortat (behind McGee for complete lack of intimidation)
Pekovic (slow, foul happy)
Splitter (this seems too low, haven't seen him much)
So here is the point. Mozgov is 26 years old and somewhere between 30th - 40th best center in the league. He bests Koufos in physical strength and that is about it. Koufos is in the conversation as the 18th - 22nd best center in the NBA. McGee has broken through the top 10 centers and will probably advance higher in the years to come. McGee is 24 and Koufos 23, both of them have plenty of room to grow and especially to understand the game better. The only time Mozgov would be preferable would be against the bruisers such as Bynum and Howard. Even against Howard, Kouf would do alright as Howard's post moves are only average.
The lesson we learned from Miami is to make other teams adjust to you. Koufos has the best pick and roll defense and that will get us through the year with the wins we need. Koufos also really hustles to get down the court and while he isn't a gazelle in that area he does work at it. McGee for about 30mpg's, KK for 10-15 and Karl gets to use his small ball for a bit. The only thing Koufos does worse than Mozgov is post defense.
Subjectively Mozgov has poor hands, very slow feet and seems to mentally struggle during the games. He's got a great little hook shot that I would love to see more. The other side of the coin is that KK's numbers where much better last year and KK was basically playing on a bad knee all year. (http://www.rotoworld.com/recent/nba/1501/kosta-koufos). Once we see Kosta playing healthy and with his usual hustle his already good numbers will improve even more. Most see the physical power that Moz has and grant Moz more upside potential. Kosta is already right around the 20th best center in the NBA right now. He achieved that last season mostly playing injured. Kosta has quicker feet, better hands, is a significantly better rebounder and has a stronger mental attitude. For those of you who watched The Association last year it was obvious that Kosta was always engaged, ready to work and prepared. Moz often looked pouty and frustrated. This whole discussion of who is better is a no contest. Kosta (if healthy) will again beat out Moz for minutes this year and begin to dominate second strings. The only question is how long it's going to take Karl (and Denver Stiffs) to realize it.