After a summer of investing into the future, the Cavs have moved into Championship or bust territory midway through the season after trading draft picks and less developed youth for veterans with expertise in perimeter defense, bench scoring, and paint security. The most recent Cavalier to answer Cleveland’s call to a Finals run is former Nuggets Center, Timofey Mozgov. While the Cavs recognized and acted on issues that needed to be resolved immediately, they did sacrifice a lot of their future potential by relinquishing two protected first round picks to Denver. Many indicted Cavs’ GM David Griffin for being impulsive, but the deal for Mozgov was more elaborate than what critics realize. Here are five reasons why Timofey Movgoz was worth the trade.
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1. Finally, We Can Check Off ‘Rim Protection’
“Mozilla” stands at a lofty 7’1” and casts 250 pounds of hustle. He always plays hard, a mentality that can only benefit the Cavs going forward. With constant speculation of lackluster and disengaged defensive efforts, Mozgov brings intensity to a familiar system after playing with Coach David Blatt on Russia’s national team in the 2012 Olympics. While he barely makes the top 30 in the NBA for blocks per game, Mozgov offers length and a sedulous work ethic that will flood the void left by an Achilles-less Anderson Varejao. The Cavs’ towering center has developed his game at an astonishing pace, now averaging a whole block and nine points more per game. Despite two straight blowout losses to start his Cavalier career, Movgoz is already posting better averages with the Wine and Gold. Yes, it’s only been two games; but what’s more convincing is how he plays the game. You just have to see it in what the Cavs conclusively lacked before Mozgov’s arrival: effort.
The Cavs needed this, ranking 29th in opponent’s interior field goal percentage and 23rd for points surrendered in the paint before the trade.
2. Underrated Finesse
While you don’t need a particularly mobile big man, you do want a guy who jostles. With the dynamic transition game the Cavs (ok, when LeBron is healthy) have, Mozgov’s diligence will pay heavy dividends. Even in the post, where the giants clash and grapple to fend for position, Mozgov has developed an ongoing arsenal of moves that transcend any preconceived notion that he can’t move or finish with grace:
Don’t worry, Cavs Nation. The Wild Thing may be out for the season, but his fleeting intensity is met by Mozgov’s incoming determination.
3. A Big Man with a Big Bailout
Another issues that rests north on the Cleveland’s extensive list of defensive problems is their ability to guard the pick-and-roll. Fundamentally and pensively distasteful, the Cavs’ pick and role defense is hard to watch. Mozgov has seen it in the past and taken advantage of it himself:
Despite being a consistent finisher on the receiving end, Mozgov is no expert in protecting the paint on the pick-and-roll. However, in addition to his length, Mozilla’s athleticism can bail the Cavs out whenever their wall falls, a positive that leverages Mozgov’s value to the defense:
Here, Mozgov’s size forces a turnover:
Beat him off the dribble? Guess what, Mozgov’s size:
His energy, size, and athleticism allow him to make plays as crucial and clutch as Irving’s shooting or LeBron’s passing, even if he’s not as fundamentally sound as an elite center.
Damien Peters ·
4. Protected First Round Picks? Eh, Whatever
First round picks are great; but looking at the details of the picks, the Cavs aren’t missing out on too much:
The pick from the Thunder, now headed to the Nuggets, is protected and will remain with the Thunder should it fall in the Nos. 1 to 18 range.
The other draft pick was acquired via the Memphis Grizzlies and also is covered with various protections.
In addition, the Cavs will receive two 2015 second-round picks, Denver’s right to the less favorable of Chicago’s second-round selections and Portland’s second-rounder.
-Sam Amico of Fox Sports
Essentially, these protected picks aren’t guaranteed to foster any intangible youth talents. One of the picks is through the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that may be in question for the Western Conference playoffs, but will likely remain in the top 18. In what seems to be bland draft that doesn’t boast any steals past the first 15 picks, this isn’t the worst loss Cleveland could’ve endured. In addition, the other pick, through the Memphis Grizzlies, will likely be divided into two second round picks in 2017. The Cavs ultimately didn’t overpay for Mozgov because of the franchise’s win-now mentality.
5. Winning Now is a More Realistic Mentality
This may be more speculative than reasonable, but the Cavs’ hypothesized dynasty of championships is more fable than fact due to the dynamics of the league. Ubiquitously speaking, the East is so bad; in fact, it’s been so bad for so long that the conference is due for a balancing shift of talent and competition.
Mature teams like Toronto and Atlanta will continue to develop; young and talented teams like Milwaukee and Detroit will grow up and take a couple more draft picks. New York, Philadelphia and other teams rebuilding this season will use their salary cap to lure the most expensive free agents. Washington requires just one more component (perhaps, Kevin Durant?) to stir the same frenzy Cleveland perpetuated in the summer of 2014. All that’s left are teams like Cleveland and Chicago, who have the depth, talent, and veteran experience to win it all now. If they can’t by 2016, they will face a different conference the following season that will make their path to the NBA Finals significantly harder with each proceeding season.
Sure, the Cavs are built for sustainable success having an All Star Point Guard in Kyrie Irving at just the age of 22. Consider, however, every year that ticks off of what’s left on LeBron’s Cavalier clock. The Cavaliers’ youth, depth and ability to compete with a rapidly growing Eastern Conference will come into question.
The deal for Timofey Mozgov was symbolic of this, as GM David Griffin has bet his biggest assets on one hand. The protected picks aren’t invaluable, and whomever the Cavs might’ve brought in wouldn’t have developed enough to immediately contribute like Mozgov; his maturity and aggressiveness add volume to his bulk, and hopefully he can help Cleveland play above speculation.