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Lakers shut down Timofey Mozgov for the season, focused on developing youth

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The Lakers have thrown the towel on Mozgov this year.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers internally made an official decision on Timofey Mozgov, shutting down their free agent signing for the remainder of the season as they look to focus on developing their young talent. A source familiar with the situation informed Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, and it lines up with what we already knew by watching the rotation shift recently.

Mozgov last played on March 5, which isn’t all that long ago, but he’s only appeared in two games for a total of 25 minutes dating back to February 6. The Lakers have clearly moved away from what can be officially labeled as a disastrous free-agency signing, instead using his minutes to bring along the promising Ivica Zubac.

Zubac has been as equally impressive as Mozgov has been disappointing, looking like another mid-draft steal for the Lakers. He’s coming off of a career night against the Denver Nuggets, notching a double-double with 25 points and 11 rebounds.

The Lakers’ have been shaking up their roster from within, tweaking their approach with less than 20 games left in the regular season. Luol Deng appears to be on a similar path, not playing since February 26, while Nick Young also found his way into the DNP column.

The all-out focus on developing any player with a shred of upside over letting veterans soak time isn’t surprising. The new front office in place wants to evaluate what kind of chips they acquired on the way in, and guys like Mozgov and Deng don’t fit into that mold in any way.

What comes next for the Lakers and Timofey is the big question, with Mozgov in the first year of a $64 million contract he had agreed to within hours of free agency tipping off last summer. Zubac looks prepped to man the middle for the Lakers after an impressive stretch to close out the season, and Mozgov has struggled to stay on the floor even when he was a lock in the rotation.

Signing what was supposed to be a defensive-focused 30-year-old big man made a speck of sense at the time, but watching it unravel so vehemently in the 54 games Mozgov played in left little doubt there’s not a great deal he can contribute to a young Lakers team.

Stat-wise, the Lakers were 2.8 points per 100 possessions better with Mozgov on the bench, according to data from NBA.com. That’s not a huge swing either way, but further evidence pointing to the lack of positive impact Mozgov made in his first year with the Lakers.

This is looking more and more like a “better late than never” scenario, with the bright side being the development of Zubac has been one of the few positives for the Lakers in 2017. No matter how you chop it up, though, there’s no way to look at one of the last signings of the Kupchak-Buss era as having any amount of success.

That’s not all on them, of course, but the final decision was made by a front office that was ousted a few short months later. How the new management group manages that albatross of a contract will be intriguing.