Nevertheless, the Cavs have started to make calls on the market for Timofey Mozgov, who could appeal to Western Conference contenders.
Mozgov’s production has regressed majorly this season, but he remains a solid interior player on both ends of the floor. He finishes well at the rim offensively, protects it defensively and rebounds well at both ends.
He’s helpful against big lineups and ineffective, sometimes disastrously so, against small lineups.
The Cavaliers might seek to reorganize their roster for a Finals matchup with Warriors, and Cleveland could target another wing. Mozgov, nearly unplayable when Golden State goes small, is a somewhat valuable trade chip. He makes $4.95 million in the final season of his contract.
A contender could rent him for the stretch run without surrendering a key highly paid player. But the Cavs are also a contender. For whatever reasons he’d help another team, he’d help them.
The Cavs shouldn’t just look ahead to a Finals rematch if they deal Mozgov and limit their ability to play big. Will they definitely get past Eastern Conference challengers like the Bulls (who have Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson), Raptors (Jonas Valanciunas), Heat (Hassan Whiteside), Pistons (Andre Drummond) without Mozgov? What if they face the Spurs (Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge) or even the Thunder (Steven Adams and Enes Kanter) or Clippers (DeAndre Jordan) in the Finals?
Cleveland would still be favored to win the East, but there’s value in the ability to play multiple styles. Mozgov allows the Cavaliers to succeed while playing big.
Tristan Thompson is more versatile and a better fit against small teams, and Anderson Varejao and Sasha Kaun would still provide depth. But unless they’re getting a good enough wing in return, the Cavs shouldn’t rush to trade Mozgov.
That could leave them in a tough spot this summer, when Mozgov becomes a free agent. Will they offer him a huge contract when they already have the younger Thompson signed long-term and Varejao also on a big contract? They’re already facing a big luxury-tax bill.
But that’s the cost of contending. The Cavs need helpful players – including Mozgov – now. They’ll just have to handle offseason dilemmas when they reach them.
Any potential Mozgov trade should be about maximizing Cleveland’s short-term championship potential.