Since joining the Cleveland Cavaliers in January, Timofey Mozgov has become an invaluable member of the rotation, viewed as the final piece of the puzzle that turned them into serious title contenders.
It was almost a foregone conclusion the Cavs would pick up Mozgov's team option for the 2015-16 season, and the team officially announced the move Tuesday.
Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick provided the financial details:
The 28-year-old Russian came to Cleveland with little fanfare. He was a good rim-protector for the Denver Nuggets, but many NBA fans remembered him most for being on the receiving end of a Blake Griffin poster dunk.
Cavaliers general manager David Griffin had no shortage of skeptics wondering if he paid too high of a price—two protected first-round draft picks—to acquire Mozgov. However, Griffin's gambit paid off in spades, as the 7-footer's presence inside helped turn the Cavs into a fantastic defensive unit.
Before the trade, Cleveland ranked 23rd in defensive rating (105.5) and allowed opponents to shoot 62.7 percent inside five feet (29th). After the trade, the Cavaliers' 102.9 defensive rating was 17th in the league, and opposing teams shot a more manageable 58.6 percent in the restricted area.
The Cavs were also a little over three points per 100 possessions better defensively (100.9 defensive rating) when Mozgov was on the court compared to when he was off the court (104.0 defensive rating).
Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group highlighted what made Mozgov so valuable to the Cavs: "His production was one of the main reasons why the team ended the year with the best record in the NBA since the mid-January point. He provided that rim-protector the franchise desperately needed, and the defense hit its stride immediately upon his arrival."
LeBron James didn't underplay how he felt about the Russian big man when speaking about him in January, per Joe Vardon of the Northeast Ohio Media Group:
It's funny, I was talking to my friend the other day and I said he's probably the best, as far as big, true big. You know, Chris Bosh is a great big, Kevin Love is a great big. But I'm talking about a true, 7-foot, big guy. He's probably the best one I've played with since Z (Zydrunas Ilgauskas).
They have different skill sets, but they both have skill. They know how to play. Sometimes you get a lot of bigs that are just big. He knows how to play and it's great to have him out there.
Mozgov also dominated in spurts during the 2015 NBA Finals with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love out. He peaked in Game 4, scoring 28 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
SB Nation's Tom Ziller highlighted how Mozgov was completely outplaying Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut early in the Finals:
The Cavs ultimately lost to the Warriors in six games, but nobody questioned how much Mozgov meant to Cleveland after the series.
At $4.95 million this coming season, Mozgov is a bargain considering how much he contributes to the team. Given their salary-cap situation, the Cavaliers need to save whatever money they can, so a team-friendly contract like Mozgov's is a godsend.
Cleveland's furious scramble last winter to find a rim protector demonstrated just how hard it is to find a reliable one without massively overpaying. Mozgov may not be the best defensive center in the league, but he does the dirty work for Cleveland and will be a key piece of the team's rotation for at least one more year.
Stats are courtesy of NBA.com unless otherwise noted.