We’ve made it to our final position and second to last post before tomorrow’s Game 1. It’s been a long turn around and I hope these previews have been as much a filler for you readers as they’ve been for me as a writer. I’m starting to feel a little excited, a little pumped up, but more on that tomorrow. For now, we have to cover opposing centers who are both an wonderful blend of Who? and Yeah, he’s pretty good. For Cleveland, we have the midseason acquisition Timofey Mozgov from Denver, and for Golden State we have the Australian Andrew Bogut. If you’re feeling a little left out, like you don’t know much of either guy, then you’re in luck, because I don’t either. Let’s try and break this down.
The 7’1 Russian center was once credited for scoring 93 points in the game… because of a technical error, but nevertheless he’ll always have that screen shot if his children ever try to doubt their father’s greatness.
I don’t think anyone has watched Denver games post-Carmelo except those fans in Colorado, but from the few times I’ve watched Mozgov play as a Cavalier, I’ve been impressed by what he’s able to do with his presence. 7’1 is a daunting size, even in the NBA. If you can stay on your feet, keep your hands up, and move your feet quickly, you can be one of the greats. What I like about Mozgov is that he doesn’t stay on his feet, and is looking to block your shot even if he already has position. In the regular season he averaged a little over a block per game, while this postseason he’s practically doubled that at two blocks a game. He’s a real defensive presence…. so long as he’s in the paint.
Offensively, he’s managing 9.1 points in only 22 minutes of action this postseason, which is good for about 13 a game if you stretch that over 36 minutes. He has a soft touch on the bunny hook and can move his feet well on the block. He’s solid in the pick and roll, though Cleveland doesn’t run it nearly as much as I’d like to see. Those rare moments where Kyrie or LeBron find themselves doubled at the top and they throw a dagger to a cutting Mozgov are plenty of fun and if they can keep him in the game, then we should get a handful of them.
The issue is I don’t think Cleveland can keep him in the game. He’s already off the floor for over half the game and now that they’re facing a switch happy team in Golden State, I imagine that David Blatt will have no choice but to play small as often as he can, forcing Mozgov onto the bench and Tristan Thompson into the five. It’s only going to take two plays where all of a sudden he’s guarding Curry or Klay or Barnes, and all of which will pull him from the basket and the moment you help, the ball is going to whip around the court until it finds someone wide open.
Take a look at this regular season stat line: 25 minutes, 10 points and 7 rebounds.
Take a look at this other regular season stat line: 24 minutes, 6 points and 8 rebounds.
Take a look at this postseason stat line: 26 minutes, 9 points and 7 rebounds.
Take a look at this other postseason stat line: 24 minutes, 5 points and 8 rebounds.
Pretty damn consistent.
The first one is Mozgov, the second is Bogut. Besides maybe a couple of buckets a game (which could be accounted for by the surplus of scoring around him), Bogut is right on par with Mozgov in terms of box score. This will be a dead even battle underneath that won’t be nearly as dramatic as I’d like, because they’ll only be on the court half the time and in those minutes they’ll never have the ball because they have teammates named LeBron James and Steph Curry.
On defense he does more of the same, also averaging two blocks a game, though that’s closer to his regular season norm at 1.6. He, too, is good about staying on his feet and fighting for position, and because he has such a solid system around him, he doesn’t need to leave that position very often. It really is shame these two won’t be on the court more often.
Truthfully, neither back up sees a lot of time. When Mozgov sits, it’s because the Cavaliers have gone small, leaving no room for a true center. Kendrick Perkins is averaging four minutes per game, and those have mostly been bash-brother type minutes. Varejao is hurt, and Haywood might as well be, having only come in for garbage time. Back up centers are not in the Cavaliers plans.
Festus Azeli is a player still developing, though his 8 minutes a game are obviously more than any Cavalier back up are getting. Truthfully, however, I don’t forsee him making any notable contribution, so the back ups for both teams are essentially irrelevant.
My tone was set pretty early in this article. Bogut seems to have a little more weight to him name at this point, but that’s more a result of his being on the best team all year long. This one’s a wash, and so another cop out from me. Advantage EVEN.