Report: Lakers shut down healthy Timofey Mozgov for rest of season

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Timofey Mozgov has sat for 12 of the Lakers’ last 14 games, and he played just 26 combined minutes in the other two. He was even inactive for Los Angeles’ last two games.

Now, the Lakers are deemphasizing him even further.

ESPN:

The Los Angeles Lakers have shut down center Timofey Mozgov, who is healthy, to take a stronger look at the team’s younger players for the rest of the season, a source told The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears.

Just three years and $48 million left on Mozgov’s contract.

And as long as we’re at it, three years and $54 million left on Luol Deng‘s contract. Deng has also fallen from the rotation and became a regular inactive before Mozgov. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s also completely shut down soon.

The Lakers are better off playing their young players, Brandon Ingram over Deng and Ivica Zubac and Tarik Black over Mozgov. Not only will that help the youngsters develop, they’re less equipped to help the team win now. The Lakers are especially incentivized to tank, because they keep their first-round pick in a loaded 2017 draft only if it lands in the top three. Otherwise, it goes to the 76ers – and the Lakers’ 2019 first-rounder goes to the Magic.

Though the right strategy now, this is also a reminder of the misguided Jim Buss era. The Lakers are paying Mozgov and Deng a lot of money, and neither is contributing on the court given the Lakers’ obvious objectives. Even if the Lakers try to win during the next three years, Mozgov and Deng could age past helping that cause.

There isn’t much hope in this situation, but maximizing it involves keeping Mozgov and Deng healthy and developing higher-upside, younger players.

Shutting down Mozgov is, sadly and predictably, the optimal move at this point.