What’s the most important takeaway from the Nuggets’ early season turnaround from 1-4 to 11-6?
This guy: Timofey Mozgov.
Well, not Timo, in particular, but Timo as a test case. Timo represents something bigger than himself, if that’s possible.
Mozgov represents the talent-evaluation skills of the Nuggets’ new-look front office. Soon after the new Nuggets front office came on board, one of its first moves was to extend Mozgov’s contract. They gave him three years and $14 million — for a guy who played only 8.9 minutes and averaged 2.6 points and 2.6 rebounds last season.
This wasn’t a headline-making move, but I thought it was an important move. Did they know what they were doing?
Absolutely. Mozgov had 17 points and 20 rebounds against Brooklyn on Tuesday. He had 16 points and 15 rebounds in the previous game. He’s fluid and powerful and is playing with great confidence. And the Nuggets have won seven straight.
(Shameless plug: They’re also 10-5 since I wrote this column explaining why the Nuggets should trade JaVale McGee.)
Test-case Timo tells us something more important than whether the Nuggets have found a big man for the future. It shows us general manager Tim Connelly and the Nuggets front office knows a good player from a bad player. That’s a hugely important thing for the future of the Nuggets, who must be Pacers-careful in evaluating players if they want to build a title contender.
This thought came about as I was working on a column on Kansas coach Bill Self and Colorado coach Tad Boyle. These are college coaches who repeatedly have shown they can identify a good player from a bad one.
“What you’re talking about is evaluating, not necessarily recruiting,” Boyle told me this morning. “There’s a difference between the two. I think what you have to do is find the player that fits you, not necessarily what fits everyone else.”
Knowing a good player from a bad one is definitely not a given with college coaches. Self and Boyle are two of the best at identifying a guy who can play and a guy who is simply a product of the hype machine. More on that later this week.