Movgov and the Russian national team were on ESPN early Thursday as they fell to Team USA, 89-79. Despite his team’s loss, Movgov displayed the skills (and many intangibles) that he will soon look to provide off the bench for the Knicks this season.
On his way to scoring 13 points, Mozgov showed how effective he can be on the pick and roll, a skill that should prove invaluable to the now David Lee-less Knicks.
Throughout international play this summer, Mozgov’s offense has mostly come from points off the pick and roll and second-chance buckets. He has averaged 12.6 and 3.7 rebounds in nearly 19 minutes per contest for Russia.
While he can box out well, he also seems to lack that killer instinct to make the extra push for the rebound. If he wants to make an impact, Mozgov must rebound the ball.
The Knicks have lacked strong rebounders for years (the exception being David Lee). Although Mozgov can score, and will most likely only benefit from a system like Mike D’Antoni’s, his ability to score is a dime a dozen on this offensive-minded Knicks squad.
With Ronny Turiaf slated to be the starting center, Mozgov has an opportunity to gain meaningful backup minutes. In addition to rebounding the ball, his physical game will be a major factor in his playing time.
The Knicks believe that putting in a player like Mozgov (and Turiaf, for that matter) at center will take the pressure off Amare Stoudemire defensively. Mozgov’s unselfish ability to throw his body around on defense will benefit the Knicks, even if it is solely to commit the hard fouls and take the brunt of the physical contact on both ends of the floor.
Mozgov will almost certainly need time to adjust to the NBA game. Having said that, the young center says he hopes to play “big minutes for the Knicks this season, at 10-15 minutes per game.
Coach D’Antoni remains very optimistic:
“The best thing is if he could progress from a 5-minute guy to a 15-minute guy. If he can warrant being on the floor from 15 to 18 minutes, I think that would be a great first season for him,” D’Antoni told The New York Times, early last week.
Clearly, the Knicks hold Mozgov in high regard as they signed him to a three-year deal worth approximately nine million dollars with the team’s remaining cap space for the summer. If he can mature enough to play anywhere close to 15-18 minutes per game this season, the team may look to use Mozgov in a bigger role over the final two years (and possibly beyond) of his contract.
However, this may be considered wishful thinking, as the Knicks have had some not-so- pleasant experiences with the likes of Frédéric Weis and Darko Miličić in the past.
Nevertheless, without another “future center” in sight for the Knicks, the 24-year-old Mozgov could play a big role for the Knicks if he adjusts to life in the NBA better than his European predecessors.