Cavaliers give themselves a chance with Timofey Mozgov

Cavaliers give themselves a chance with Timofey Mozgov

The Cavaliers have looked like they've had all types of problems recently. They clearly haven't shown the resiliency that Chicago has to win without their star players. Cleveland now sits at 19-17 while LeBron rests for two weeks.

I suppose we need no more proof than their recent play that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are no Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

It's quite possible the recent putrescence emanating from the Cavaliers pushed them into their most recent trades. A couple days ago they completed a trade which landed them Iman Shumpert and OKC's 1st for Dion Waiters. A trade which maybe lowers their total talent level but possibly gives them more of what they need.

It was a defense for offense trade in a league where offense is always priced more, but the Cavs figured they had enough offense and needed that defense. I agree with them, and the trade also cleared out a knucklehead to bring in someone they'll hope isn't [but very well might be]. They also landed J.R. Smith, whom will, hopefully for Cavs fans, not be a significant part of anything.

Last night, they completed a trade with Denver for Timofey Mozgov to add the rim protector that they've lacked. Mozgov is far from a superstar center, but he's a quality rebounder, decent scorer, and decent shot blocker.

They sent over a first they were owed from Memphis and the pick acquired from OKC to land him. For the Cavs, this is a pretty sweet deal. Mozgov has another bargain year on his contract, and the Cavs need to try to win right away. Two mid to late round 1sts weren't going to do a whole lot more for them than this.

The move was especially important after losing Anderson Varejao for the season.

Cleveland still has one more bullet in the trade tank, Brendan Haywood's truly bizarre contract [he's paid 2 million, but has 10 million non guaranteed on the books for next year that has a guarantee date of August 1st, so he can be traded for a 15 million dollar player after this season then be waived by the receiving team for them to clear out all their space].

However, they won't be able to really utilize that one until the off-season which means this is likely where Cleveland is going to stay in terms of personnel.

Did they do enough to get them back to contender status? On paper they look considerably deadlier than a week ago, but I'm not sure Mozgov is better than a healthy Varejao, and Shumpert will have to hope to be a better fit than Waiters, because I don't think he's a better player.

The Cavs did add a bunch of defense with these moves and helped with some of their size issues. I think they're definitely a better team now than a week ago, but probably not better than when they started the regular season.

This was a solid move for Cleveland, and it was probably the best they could do. Whether these moves are enough for this season won't depend on the moves themselves but on whether Cleveland's stars can play together. These moves might be enough to strength the rest of the rotation to win if their stars play great, but the moves clearly aren't enough to make up for the lack of continuity or quality play we've seen from their star players to date.

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  • In what I thought would be a boring year in the Eastern Conference, with only the ECF capable of providing any real excitement, things are really getting interesting. The Hawks are tied for the second best record in the entire league. The Pistons have won 7 in a row (including the last two against the Spurs and Mavs) and are only 3 games back of the 8th spot.

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    You hit the nail on the head Doug . Cleveland lacks continuity. Adding Mozgov is huge and takes some of the pressure off of Kevin Love, but I don't see this team going anywhere without a defensive plan. Forget about them catching the Hawks, Bulls, Wiz or Raptors, the best they can hope for is to finish in front of the much improved Bucks, and Pistons as a 5th seed.
    Funniest quote of the night: Jalen Rose in talking about LeBron James sitting out..."I was told that LeBron James sat out for two weeks to resume his GM duties." lol

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    That quote is awesome. I missed that one.

    Cleveland can be as deadly as their star players. I think they have enough role players and depth that if their big guns can find the continuity they should be okay.

    The big problem is Kevin Love, and I believe our Minnesota resident already told us that he wasn't nearly so good as his stats made him appear. Looks like that nail was hit right on the head.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Kevin Love has no impact, which is why Minny went from a +2.6 to a -9.8 point differential while adding the rookie of the year. Right.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    And yeah, I know Minny have had injuries, but I do think it's fair to say they'd have a lot more wins than the D-league level Knicks or Sixers right now if they still had Kevin Love.

    Biggest problem right now is LeBron is far worse than he was in Miami, not Kevin Love (who would look a lot better if LeBron played like he did in Miami ...)

  • Getting Mosgov is a solid move for Cleveland. But it all comes down to the play of the new Big 3. So far, something seems to be missing from their play. Kyrie still plays like he thinks he's the best player on the team. Love disappears when all three are playing together. And LeBron seems to be in an odd funk, and I still wonder about the drastic weight loss. Add to that their seeming disrespect for David Blatt. Still plenty of time to them to figure it out.

  • Losing Varejao for the season further degrades the Cavs already mediocre defense, so these are must-do trades if Cleveland wants even the slightest amount of championship consideration. Decent moves overall, but still likely not enough for the Cavs to get out of the East.

    No mention of last night's game? Yeah, probably better to just forget this one ever happened. You know it's bad when Snell's play is at the same level as the rest of the team.

  • In reply to BullsMan:

    Wrote a separate article about last night's game.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Yep...helps to actually scroll down the web page.

  • I will always worry about Cleveland no matter what happens, as long as they have James. I still think fully healthy, the Bulls would beat Atlanta, Toronto, and Washington about let's say 70% of the time in a 7 game series, but with Cleveland you never know how Lebron can take over and I just will never count them out til they are actually eliminated....

  • In reply to Keep:

    I think there is plenty of historical reason to fear LeBron even though I don't think his current incarnation is nearly as scary as he was recently. This season he looks beat up and tired and not nearly as tough as he did in years past.

    You see teams single covering him frequently, his thinner body makes him a lot less of a physical threat, and his athletic burst hasn't picked up any despite the lack of 20-25 lbs.

  • In reply to Keep:

    The Bulls have already had too many nights like last night to rate them any better than 50/50 in a 7 game against any of those 3 teams or the Cavs for that matter. We can't dismiss what those other teams are doing, especially the Hawks, and I will always fear a Lebron led team until we actually beat one in the playoffs.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    or we hire someone from the Spurs coaching tree to lead us past them.

  • Cleveland's got all these No. 1's and what do they really have to show for it? Kyrie Irving was a no brainer. Andrew Wiggins recently has started scoring and showing signs of at least being a solid or better starter in the near future. Mean while Kevin Love has impacted winning in a significant way throughout his career and continuing this season..? And otherwise you have what Tristan Thompson?

    I have little confidence in Cleveland's front office and even less after they chose David Blatt as their head coach. I have watched several games, and I just don't see that he commands any respect I really don't. What was he supposed to bring? Because defense is what they obviously needed, and right now the Cavs are allowing their competition to shoot 47% against them. Not good.

    Looks like the John Lennon song "Starting Over" is the theme if you ask me for LeBron. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Cavs get bounced in the early rounds. What team with their horrendous defensive stats has even made it to the ECF? No time to check right now, but interesting question..?

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Yes, Cleveland will regret ditching Wiggins sooner rather than later. They traded for a wing defender in Shumpert - well they had one with 100x the upside in Wiggins.

    So, LeBron can't lead a couple young guns? Is Love that much better than Wiggins next year and the year after? Hell, LeBron is still only 32 and 33 at that point... You can't tell me that Love will have a better decade that Wiggins moving forward...

    Wiggins will probably get ROY b/c Mirotic does not get enough minutes and his role is small. Wiggins has nobody to beat and he'll probably average 15ppg at a min from here on out and win it.

  • In reply to Granby:

    That was the argument that some tried to make at the time of the trade. I argued what if Wiggins could turn out to be the next Scottie Pippen. But it took Pippen 4 years to become that Pippen and he wasn't a one and done player. With Lebron turning 30 this season they had no choice but to make the Kevin Love deal, whether it works out or not. If Wiggins somehow ends up being better than Love right now, then they lose that bet. We really won't know that until the playoffs. There were certainly arguments to be made to keep Wiggins but you would have been ridiculed mercilessly by just about everyone for doing so, including the most important critic, Lebron himself.

  • In reply to Granby:

    LeBron is 30, they're a win now team. Who cares about the next decade? Realistically you've got to go for the next couple of years since they're your best shot. Especially since LeBron can bolt next year ... the Cavs might have a one year window to win a championship, or at least get close enough to keep their window open!

    Wiggins is pretty bad right now, for all the hype his TS% isn't much better than the old guy in #12 the Bulls fans want benched. He's just the number one pick so he's being allowed to chuck away. If he was on the Cavs it'd be a problem. The Wolves have no present so they're OK with him working it out so he's a good player in year 4.

    I also don't buy the hype that Wiggins is a good defender. The numbers do not bear that out. He's a rookie, typically they make mistakes that cancel out the good plays. Again, if you're the Cavs you don't want to wait around while LeBron gets older and worse hoping Wiggins works out.

    The Love trade still absolutely makes sense if the goal is to win a championship.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Bigway and Shakes - If the Cavs are looking to have the best team NOW, ok. But, if they want a dynasty, they should have kept Wiggins... who will be an All-Star for 15 years if he stays healthy.

    Wiggins is averaging 23 PPG on 38% 3 PT shooting in January and going back over his last 8 games 22 PPG. 2 nights ago, 25 pts on 16 shots. He hung 27 on 16 shots on Cleveland just before Christmas... sounds like Jordan against Portland his entire career - carrying a chip on his shoulder.

    Love puts up stats, but his defense gives it right back. You wonder why he's never made a difference to any team he's been on?

    Wiggins could be a lock-down defender with the right defensive coach and in the right environment this year.

  • The big advantage that LeBron has is the star-power and influence that it has on the refs. Will he get all the calls in the playoffs?

    I think Coach Spo and Riley knew exactly how to use LeBron - put him in the post and decrease the long-range shooting. Now, he's got Blatt and lost all that weight so his game is more like it was pre-Miami: stand around on the perimeter and hoist up lower percentage shots. Heck, look at his FG%! It's terrible compared to the last few years!

  • Now, I have not watched many Cleveland games, but by all accounts, the defense is a complete shit show. LeBron puts no effort forth whatsoever - especially when he's weak side and off the ball. Love and Irving are no better, supposedly.

    There is no Riley holding things together like with Miami in year one. Blatt is pretty much screwed here and it's going to get ugly if they remain under .500 for much longer.

  • In reply to Granby:

    I have watched about half the games. They have moments where they look good, but overall they don't.

    LeBron doesn't look nearly so threatening on offense or defense. Irving looks like he still wants to play hero ball, and Kevin Love looks like he's vastly overrated.

    They aren't getting much out of anyone else except Tristan Thompson in the game I've seen.

  • Cleveland should have never traded for Love. I don't blame them for the trade and any sane GM probably 9 times out of 10 would have done the same, but I feel they gave up a lot of good assets for a guy who isn't nearly as good as he appeared to be and may not even stick around. The problem with a lot of teams is they get in that "win-now" mode, and go all in. By doing so it limits any other moves they can make to improve. It's definitely important to have star players but this is still a team game and finances are also involved. I just think the Cavs could have done a lot more damage and had a lot more upside if they just would have kept Wiggins, Bennett, and Malcolm Thomas. they could have even kept Deng who I think would have helped a lot with their defensive issues.

  • Looking briefly at the last few conference finals not one team is above .457% in opp. field goal percentage and other than that one team which was Miami the rest are much lower. Cleveland I'm willing to bet if their defense continues like this will get bounced before the ECF. Then suppose Love decides to split. Along with all your first round draft picks? This will not end well..

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Yes, people are going to hate LeBron again in Cleveland once again after this year. Love is totally leaving. It's tough living in Cleveland, and playing with LeBron is not all that it's cracked up to be unless you win it all. Why wouldn't Love just go grab a max deal in LA or NY or somewhere else and start over after this year?

  • In reply to Granby:

    It is still early and everybody seems to be over reacting, at least that is the excuse that everybody is using to downplay Rose's horrible play which is probably worse than anything going on in Cleveland.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I think many expected Rose to struggle this year after not playing for two years. And, how he played for Team USA. Rose's best season will most likely be that MVP season. He'll still be a high end player and should get better with more minutes.

    Most expected Cleveland to be 1 or 2 in the East. It's been bad. There is no fight in them. Last year the Bulls showed some pride with hardly any talent. I'm not sensing that's the case with Cleveland.

  • Can you believe that Cleveland and SA are a combined 40-32. Thats almost as many losses as you might have predicted for the entire season for those 2 teams. Obviously a huge part of that has been do to injuries.

    The Mozgov and Shumpert moves are both great moves for this Cavs team. They need solid defensive role players to compliment their offensive talent and they acquired them at their 2 positions of need SG and Center. I'd say that under the circumstances these deals are a mini home run for them.

    With the Mozgov deal there go my dreams of ever stealing Nurkic from Denver(not that there ever really were any) Like I said yesterday, if they commit to him as their starter he could become the ROY. It will be interesting to see who becomes the better NBA player, Nurkic or Mirotic.

  • LeBron hasn't played overall like the old LeBron this season, but I'm not going to say he can't get to that level by the time the Bulls could have a playoff series with the Cavs. I've got to admit I'm a little less afraid of LeBron if Jimmy is still putting up 20+ points a game and playing great defense by then. I'd still like another creator and shot-maker on the wing, but having one guy who can do that at a high level like Jimmy goes a long way. The Bulls had nothing like that in their ECF meet with the Heat a few years back.

    I don't really think highly of this Mozgov trade. Even though they weren't the Cavs original picks, Cleveland gave away more for Mozgov than Dallas gave for Rondo. I don't think of Mozgov as even a league average center. Varejao is a lot better than Mozgov and the Cavs were still at least one big guy short with him healthy. Two first-rounders for Mozgov. One first-rounder netted Denver Mozgov's backup, Jusuf Nurkic, who seems to be the better player even in his rookie season. Coincidentally, of course, Nurkic is one of the draft picks we traded away to get Doug McDermott. God, I still can't get over how much we forked over for McDermott. This Mozgov trade, even if doesn't make me any more afraid of the Cavs - and it doesn't, looks a lot better when remembering that McDermott deal.

  • In reply to Hunter:

    1) Cleveland had to make these trades to try and right the ship! No option.

    2) If McD were putting up 15 ppg, he might be the ROY. However, he had a big problem adjusting to the NBA - who knows why. Then he got injured. Hard to forsee those events. He still may be one of the top players of his draft.

    3) I feel a bit bad for the Cleveland fans, but not for LeBron. Many teams have had a lot of injuries this season, including the Bulls. Only the Bulls have more depth.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    1) I think the trade that netted Shump and JR was good for the Cavs. The Mozgov trade is entirely separate. I'm not convinced Mozgov is much better than Samuel Dalembart who the Cavs could/can get without giving away any draft picks.

    2) If Derrick were putting up 25 ppg, he might be the MVP. He's not and McD wasn't. Sure, he could be one of the top players from his draft. Or he could be a bust. His play this year when he was healthy didn't provide me any encouragement and I don't like how low his ceiling seems to be. Two first-rounders and a second-rounder was a lot to give up for him. Especially since one of those picks was the Charlotte pick we could have parlayed into capable player(s) at certain points when we sorely needed it. We'll see how he plays going forward.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Hey Rusty, I know that you are a glass half full kind of guy, but if McD were putting up 30ppg he might be MVP.

  • This season both Kyrie and Love are shooting 38% when receiving passes from Lebron. Last season Wade and Bosh almost shot 60% when receiving passes from Lebron. They are shooting 22% lower as a duo with much worse defense. Never mind their defense, they need to improve their offense when playing off Lebron.

  • I think home run is a bit of a stretch. As mentioned, It was about all that Cleveland could do under the circumstances as they absolutely had to find a center with Varejao out. But Mosgov doesn't scare anyone and is just another big body know more for getting dunked on than anything else.

    If Shumpert gets back to being a good defender and not an offensive liability, then that is a nice pick-up. The prime word is if because he has a shoulder problem and never really came back offensively from his prior knee surgery. Although he is the kind of defensive player that I wish the Bulls had to take some pressure off of Butler because Hinrich is just not the answer.

    What is interesting is the idea you mention about next year with being able to trade for $15 million to get rid of Haywood. I think LeBron has taken this time off to get his weight back. He was on that diet this summer and lost all that weight which has seemed to make him weaker and more lethargic. I heard Carmelo did the same diet which is not a growing endorsement for the diet given how it may have affected both of them.

    But if LeBron comes back strong within the next week or so, I think he is the person you have to worry about. He has the ability to make his team better and although Irving and Love are not playing as well as Wade and Bosh, both Wade and Bosh were more established stars when they joined up with LeBron and all three had good relationships by playing with each on national and Olympic teams. Lebron, Irving and Love have not really had time to mesh.

    But I also think the Bulls have not had time to mesh either. I think the Bulls beat this Cavs team as constructed this year. Next year may be different if the Cavs use that money wisely. But for now, the Mosgov and Shumpert trades were more like a double and if J.R. becomes a chucker and a distraction, the trade is a single at best.

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