Timofey Mozgov hasn't played a full season in Cleveland yet, but he's already a fan favorite. That's what happens when your appearance coincides with, and was of course very much a part of, a major team turnaround from being a middling sub-.500 team to a Finals team that pushed the Golden State Warriors. Mozgov wasn't the only factor for the team's success. LeBron James got healthy, and Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith shored up a backcourt with a gaping hole at the two-guard spot.
Still, the team was desperate for a rim protector that could finish in the Pick and Roll, and they got one in Mozgov. He's never averaged 26 minutes a game in the NBA, but the basketball-observing world took notice of his impact. ESPN's NBA rank has him 78th overall.
He's one of five @cavs in the top 80 of our #NBArank. Timofey Mozgov is our No. 78. pic.twitter.com/4JAGkqM1Ka— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) October 9, 2015
The voting is done by a collection of NBA "experts". Sports Illustrated's ranking had Mozgov rated 68th. With Mozgov down, the Cavaliers have four players in the top 70 of ESPN's ranking. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson. I suppose it should be noted that Thompson is currently a restricted free agent. There is a long-running debate on this blog and elsewhere about who is more valuable, or better, between Thompson and Mozgov. SI had Mozgov rated higher, this ranking, which is a bit more crowdsourced, puts Thompson higher. It's not exactly an academic debate, because the Cavs may only invest in one long term. In the meantime, it'd be nice to have both.
If I'm pressed to choose one to have over the next five years, I think it's a no-brainer. Age and the fact that one is coming off knee surgery alone make Thompson the choice. Right now, I'm not really sure, and it would sort of depend on the matchup. Who are the Cavs playing that night. Mozgov has the best individual skill of rim protection, but Thompson is a bit more defensively versatile. Mozgov may offer more offensively, but given the Cavs personnel, just dunking and offensive rebounding and passing out is fine thank you very much.
We will check back in with this once Thompson's ranking is out.