The biggest worry with Mozgov is no doubt his fit in the Nets’ offensive system. When analyzing his weak points, it seems as though they completely contradict what Coach Atkinson will be preaching to his players when training camp opens.
First and foremost, Mozgov is not a stretch big, yet. That being said, it is no secret the Nets’ coaching staff will push Mozgov to make a Brook Lopez-esque leap from behind the arc this season. It’s undoubtedly hard to ignore the social media clips of him knocking down consecutive 3-pointers in training sessions:
— Brooklyn Local News (@bklynlocalnews) July 13, 2017
Mozgov has even stated in an interview that he has been working on his outside game in preparation for next season. While these are all encouraging signs, there is no guarantee he will succeed. He has only attempted 40 3s over 423 career games. It’s hard to imagine coaches would let this skill go to the wayside if it was always present in Mozgov’s arsenal. Out of those 40, he has only connected on seven attempts. During the 2013-14 season, Mozgov seemingly became more aggressive from behind the arc, but only made four out of 24 threes on the season.
Mozgov has simply shown no evidence he will be able to produce from the behind the arc in an NBA game. It is conceivable that he will shoot less than 30 percent from 3-point range next season, which would arguably make him unplayable in some scenarios. The key will be to know when to pull the plug on Mozgov as a stretch big. For instance, Jared Sullinger has been attempting to transform himself into a stretch five for his entire career, but he has not shot over 30 percent in each of his five NBA seasons.
Another potential downfall for Mozgov in the Nets’ system will be the pace. Whether it’s pushing the ball up the court on a fast break or getting back on defense, the Nets played an up-tempo style of basketball last season. Atkinson’s squad ultimately played at the fastest pace in the league.
Mozgov is not exactly considered a track star. Oftentimes, after throwing an outlet pass or finishing off an easy deuce, he’ll waddle to the other end of the court. He possesses the potential to leak out on a fast break when necessary; however, this trait is rarely seen. Mozgov is a slight upgrade over Lopez from this perspective, as Lopez almost never sprinted to his spot. Yet, as Mozgov approaches his mid-30’s and injuries start becoming more frequent, it’s very possible he will lag even farther behind his teammates.
Even though he presents some interesting possibilities for the Nets next season, the reality is Mozgov falls short in two major skills needed for Atkinson’s system. Only time will tell if he will be remedy these shortcomings. If not, then it will be interesting to see how quickly Atkinson would reduce his role, if at all.
Looking at the Big Picture
Mozgov’s future in Brooklyn can result in many different outcomes, depending on how next season plays out.
In a perfect world, Mozgov will hold down the starting position and play the best basketball of his career under his former Knicks co-worker. In this situation, his $15.2 million salary for next season instantly becomes more friendly. However, it would be difficult to sell high on Mozgov in this scenario, as his remaining $32.7 million over the following two seasons would surely turn teams away. If Mozgov is successful next season, then ideally, the Nets’ coaching staff and trainers would watch his minutes and ensure he could produce for the remainder of his contract.
The other outcome would be much more difficult. It involves Mozgov sustaining multiple injuries, losing his touch around the rim, playing out of his comfort zone, losing his starting spot to Jarrett Allen (very likely by season’s end) or any combination of these circumstances. If he wasn’t already, Mozgov would without a doubt be impossible to trade under these circumstances. Sean Marks could look into the stretch provision or a buyout of Mozgov’s contract, at the very least. Another possibility is some combination of these two scenarios unfold throughout the season, which would make a decision on Mozgov’s contract tough to make.