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Breaking Down the Dwight Howard–Timofey Mozgov Trade

Brooklyn and Charlotte are both losing now to win later

Charlotte Hornets v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Trade

According to a Woj tremor early Wednesday morning, the Brooklyn Nets will acquire Dwight Howard from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Timofey Mozgov and two second-round picks.

What Exactly Are the Nets Doing?

Six years ago, news of Howard’s interest in joining the Nets sent ripples of optimism throughout Brooklyn. But a lot has changed since then. Howard has been past his peak for years, and now, in Brooklyn, he will be taking away minutes from the Nets’s most promising young player, Jarrett Allen, who plays center and isn’t positionally flexible. At first glance, moving valuable draft assets to bring in a high-priced obstruction (with a historically grating personality) to Allen’s growth is frivolous, and perhaps even irresponsible.

But Nets GM Sean Marks might have something else cooking. As reported by ESPN’s Bobby Marks (no relation), moving Mozgov’s albatross of a contract means that Allen Crabbe’s player option is currently the only guaranteed money on Brooklyn’s books for the 2019-20 season. That could leave the Nets with more than $60 million (about two max slots) to play with next offseason. For a major-market franchise (technically) that hasn’t eclipsed 30 wins in three seasons, the allure of names like Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, and Jimmy Butler is obvious.

For now, though, the Nets’ focus is on building a foundation that will support the franchise in the long term, and that requires the team to secure a mid-to-high lottery pick in the 2019 draft—the first draft in which they’ll have their first-round pick since 2013.

Mitch Kupchak Can’t Quit Mozgov

Mitch Kupchak is a known dealmaker, if that’s a term that means anything anymore. “People say I have a poker face,” he said at his introductory press conference as Hornets GM two months ago. But Wednesday’s trade has revealed Kupchak’s one true weakness: Timofey Mozgov.

It was Kupchak, after all, who inked Mozgov to a four-year, $64 million contract during the cap-spiked summer of 2016 (incidentally, Kupchak’s last summer as Lakers GM). And now, two years later, they’re back together again. On days like today, I find myself yearning for a buddy cop film starring these two. The possibilities are endless—“Kupsky & Moz,” “$64 Million Jump Street”—just make it and I’ll watch it.

I couldn’t find any pictures of these two together on the internet, but my guess is that’s only because Kupchak has kept them all for himself. At the end of the day, the only thing any of us can hope for is to find someone in life who values us as irrationally as Mitch Kupchak does Timofey Mozgov.

The Winner

My head is telling me that no one wins any trade involving Howard and Mozgov, but my heart … well, my heart is telling me the same thing.

Howard has officially entered the “hot potato” phase of his career—this will be his third Eastern Conference team in as many seasons since putting pen to paper on a three-year, $70.5 million contract with Atlanta two years ago. Mozgov, meanwhile (and it can’t be said enough), sports one of the ugliest contracts in league history, and missed most of last season due to injury. This trade is equal parts weird, hilarious, and sad.

But in all seriousness, this trade could signal a directional shift for both franchises. The Nets appear to have made this deal with the intention of making a trajectory-altering splash next summer, while the Hornets’ absorption of Mozgov’s deal in exchange for picks—along with their recent head-coaching change and the flurry of rumors surrounding Kemba Walker—might mean a full-fledged rebuild is on the horizon. If we’ve learned anything from NBA offseasons past, though, it’s hard to find answers. Just buckle up and enjoy the ride.