The Los Angeles Lakers, spurned by Kevin Durant and every other top free agent, have moved quickly to sign former Cavaliers center Timofey Mozgov to a four-year, $64 million contract, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. Mozgov should slide into the Lakers' starting center slot likely vacated by Roy Hibbert, who is expected to leave in free agency.
Still, even in these strange salary-cap times, the decision to give Mozgov $16 million a year is surprising. Mozgov had an excellent year and fantastic NBA Finals performance in 2015 after being acquired by Cleveland that January. However, he's coming off a nightmare 2015-2016 season that saw him lose his starting job and even a spot in the Cavaliers' rotation as they marched to a championship. He played in just 23 minutes in this year's Finals and sat out seven Cleveland playoff games entirely.
Nevertheless, he still cashed in this summer for a contract worth about 17 percent of the salary cap, the equivalent of a $12 million deal annually under this past year's system.
The Lakers are hoping Mozgov can return to the form he showed in 2014-15, when he averaged 11 points and seven rebounds starting in the middle after Cleveland acquired him from Denver. At the time, Mozgov's rebounding and rim protection was a boon to a Cleveland team that struggled in both areas prior to acquiring him. But his 2015-16 season got off to a bad start after he underwent offseason knee surgery and he never recovered. Cleveland instead shifted to smaller lineups, which left Mozgov as the odd man out.
Now, he'll play alongside the Lakers' young trio of D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram, as well as possibly restricted free agent Jordan Clarkson if the Lakers can retain him. However, the combination of Randle and Mozgov may struggle to guard quicker players defensively and will definitely have issues spacing the floor. We'll see how new coach Luke Walton navigates those problems next year.