The Nuggets have re-signed Timofey Mozgov to a three-year deal for $14 million with a team option for the third season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The Nuggets will have Mozgov locked up until he's 30 years-old, but they can get out of the contract that will pay him $4.6 million per season after two years.
This is a curious signing for a few reasons.
1.) Denver needed to re-sign Mozgov and the leverage was all his after the team traded starting center Kosta Koufos on draft night. The NBA is sever-footer starved and you typically have to pay big for bigs. While this deal for Mozgov is reasonable by itself, it looks odd when compared to 24 year-old Koufos' deal that will pay him just $3 million per season over the next two years. So, you can say the Nuggets determined that Mozgov was worth $5 million more over the life of the contract, but worth $3.2 million more over the next two seasons.
If Denver had kept Koufos, they would have needed to pay him again in the 2015 offseason and he will easily command more than $4.6 million and could likely seek a starting job. Again, the plan in Denver is for JaVale McGee to blossom into the starting role and they now have Mozgov as an insurance policy and backup for the next three years (or two).
2.) One cannot deny that Koufos was the more productive player under George Karl's system. Given the starting job last year, Kosta put up 8.0 points and 6.9 rebounds in 22.4 minutes per night. He was also a solid defender. Throw out last season for Moz and his most productive campaign came when he started 35 games in 2011-12, played in 44 of the 66 total games, averaged 15.6 minutes and 5.4 points and 4.1 rebounds.
But Denver no longer employs George Karl. General manager Tim Connelly and head coach Brian Shaw are betting that Moz is a better fit under a different system that requires big men to hit jumpers and do more than set screens, roll to the hoop, and stand out of bounds.
3.) Again, big men get paid. This offseason we saw the Spurs hand out $9 million per season, for four seasons, to Tiago Splitter, the Bobcats gave Al Jefferson $13.6 million for three seasons, the Mavericks gave Brandan Wright $5 million per season over two seasons, and the Bucks gave Zaza Pachulia $5.2 million over three seasons.
Did the Nuggets overpay? We will see if Mozgov can get back on track to his 2011-12 days after appearing in just 41 games last season at 8.9 minutes per game (2.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per). He is still young at 27 years-old and has been training in Las Vegas at the Impact Camp.
How much more room does Mozgov have to grow his game? Connelly, Shaw, and Josh Kroenke are hoping it's enough to provide quality backup minutes to McGee, who is a project of his own.
The Nuggets roster is now set at the maximum 15 players and the estimated team salary is $67.4 million. The team can have training camp invitees to push the roster over the max for now, but come October they will need to make a move to add anyone else - like rookie Erick Green, who could be headed overseas or to the NBA Developmental League for the time being.
The roster is set, for now.
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