UPDATE: The deal is reportedly done. The amount being reported is $64 million over 4 years. We do not yet know if there are options in the deal or the structure of the contract (flat, raises each year, decreasing over time), but it’s all pretty firm now. My initial analysis is below. I will have more up soon.
The Lakers have a pretty big hole at the Center position. In the lead up to free agency, it was thought they might chase Hassan Whiteside hard and were even linked to Bismack Biyombo earlier today. It seems, though, they will go in a different direction:
Lakers in serious talks on the framework of a four-year, $65M deal with Timofey Mozgov, league sources tell @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 1, 2016
First, that’s a big number. It’s not HUGE — it’s basically the equivalent of a 4 year/$48 million deal under a $70 million cap — but it represents a major raise from what Mozgov made this past season in Cleveland ($4.9 million). It’s yet to be known whether the contract would be flat or have raises each season, but those are minor details that would be known should this deal actually get inked.
Enough about money, though.
Regarding fit, Mozgov has some traits which should bring value. He has excellent size and good length. He can protect the rim defensively. He can score some in the post, can set good screens, and can serve as a good finisher in the paint when catching the ball on the move. In other words, he’s not a total stiff and if playing in a style and role which plays to his strengths, I think he adds value.
The question is whether the Lakers would really be playing to his strengths with the current roster they have in place. Mozgov can run the floor, but it’s not what he’s best at. He’s not necessarily a plodder, but getting up and down the court quickly isn’t a strength. So, If the goal is to use him as a more mobile, better finishing Hibbert who isn’t looked to as someone who will need the ball, save for a few rim runs and when the lane opens up in the P&R, that’s one thing.
But if the goal is to incorporate him into a free flowing offensive attack, where he can be an active participant in an open court game, that’s unlikely to be successful. If you’re looking at him to fill the Bogut role from Golden State, even that type of projection is flawed since Mozgov is not the passer or release valve option Bogut can be at the top of the floor, picking out cutters and making reads and passes within motion heavy sets.
Defensively, Mozgov can also be schemed off the floor when teams go small since he’s much more comfortable hanging back in the P&R and not the type of big who can actively switch onto a guard and keep him contained. On the other end, he has the ability to score from the post, but in today’s NBA teams are willing to bet against offenses who rely on the efficiency of post ups beating them — even if it’s when a C is matched up with a PF or, in some cases, against a wing who gets switched onto him.
All in all, this would be the type of signing with some plusses, but also some pretty obvious minuses. We will analyze it more should the deal become finalized, but my gut reaction is that the deal, as reported, would not benefit the Lakers.