Just What Could The Nets Get For Brook Lopez?
Sure, he just got his soul stolen by Larry Nance Jr, but Brook Lopez seems like a good guy. His voice is low, his hair is big, and he’s a massive nerd, literally and figuratively. He looks like a jocular kinda dude on the court; even when he’s complaining to a ref, he’s the geek arguing with a teacher about being bullied out of sight. He’s the most loyal player the Nets have ever employed, his teammates seem to love the guy, and so do his coaches.
The fans though? Man, the fans are torn right now. For instance, the evolution of the sound the home crowd makes when Brook Lopez shoots a three-pointer is fascinating. It typically goes from ‘whuooohh nooaww’ to ‘whunahhyeahhh’ and then finally settles onto a combination of horrified anticipation and delighted confusion in seeing a 7-foot man shoot 28-feet away from his usual turf.
However, regardless of how good a guy he is, or how many comics he owns, it’s no secret that for the future health of the team, the longest tenured Brooklyn Net, their franchise player, the man who delights in being a Wookiee bobblehead, could quite easily end up being traded. Maybe not now or next month or even this year — but there’s the very real possibility that it could happen, this time for real.
And, considering his current contract — at $20 million a year — runs out at the end of next season,o ne of the final windows left to move the Nets’ tallest ComicCon devotee is between December 15th, when most of the contracts players signed this previous offseason are able to be traded, and the February deadline.
First off, with seemingly so many big men available around the league (hey there, Greg Monroe!) what sets Lopez apart? Secondly, what sort of deal would feasibly be out there?
Before this year, the answer to the first query would have been, ‘He’s a pretty good offensive center, I guess?’ This year, however, has seen Lopez rain triples down like a maniac — lest to be forgotten by the ever-evolving NBA landscape. Before this year, Lopez had taken 31 three-point shots in his entire career — just 24 games into the 2016-2017 season, he’s taken 127. Thus far, he’s attempting over five per game and hitting them at 35% clip, which puts him in the conversation with Damian Lillard, Carmelo Anthony, and Jimmy Butler.
The list of centers 6-11 and taller who have taken that many threes per game at that percentage rate or higher is just two: Channing Frye twice (’10-’11 and ’16-’17) and the current campaign of the New York Knicks’ near-mythical Latvian, Kristaps Porzingis.*
That’s the entire list*.
That’s not a long list*.
Defensively, Lopez puts up decent block numbers (1.7 per game, same as the Zinger) and serves as at least some sort of rim deterrent, but you’re not writing home about his prowess. He’s always a little late on shot challenges, and while he’s made improvements at following smaller players on the wing after defensive switches, dude gets burnt at times. So if you trade for Brook Lopez, you’re getting an offensively talented, defensively limited 28 year-old center.
As for the second question — ‘what feasible deals would be out there’ question — well, that’s the fun part.
We know what the other team would be getting, and it’s clear that in return for any Lopez deal, the Nets would need assets (at least one draft pick and young player) with a serviceable pivot replacement (sorry, Justin) in there too.
In Part I, let’s take a look a few potential destinations and deals that could make sense… bearing in mind everybody is still trying to figure out his value. We’re not asking for the world — hell, we’re not even asking for a Mozgov (two first round picks) — we’re just swirling some Lopez trade ideas around in our minds and seeing how they fit.
Nets trade: Brook Lopez, Bojan Bogdanovic
Suns trade: Alex Len, Tyson Chandler + Miami’s 2018 1st round pick
Why would Phoenix do it?
Look, the answer to this shouldn’t be ‘because they have to do something’ … but that’s pretty close to the truth. They need to get out from under Chandler’s contract, don’t seem overly impressed with Alex Len (they didn’t extend the former no. 5 overall pick this past offseason) and have two young bigs in Dragan Bender and Marquiss Chriss, who they need to develop and play. The two-bigs-for-one clears out their frontcourt logjam, and Lopez’s ability to play inside and out theoretically meshes well with both Bender and Chriss. The length of Lopez’s contract is important here too: the Suns would have a year and half to see how he works with their two young guys before having to make a decision about keeping him.
Bogdanovic’s ability to play alongside Phoenix’s guards in Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, and Brandon Knight, as well as their wings in P.J. Tucker and Jared Dudley, and shooting off the bench adds sorely-needed heft to the Suns’ bench. Hell, even Phoenix head coach Earl Watson believes they have too many guys!
Why would Brooklyn do it?
They get to kick the tires on Len, see if they can’t ship Chandler elsewhere for (possibly) another pick, and get Miami’s 2018 pick for their troubles. If Lopez and Bogdanovic are the price, so be it; you know what you’ve got in both, and the combo of Len and Chandler replace Lopez, while, hopefully, Caris LeVert had made the expiring Croatian expendable.
Likelihood out of 10?
Call this one a 5/10. Since their Isaiah Thomas-Brandon Knight debacle and the Goran Dragic to Miami swindle, Phoenix have been gun shy on the trade front, what with general manager Ryan McDonough trying to keep his job while muddling through their weird rebuild… and adding Lopez would only add to the weirdness.
Nets trade Brook Lopez
Nuggets trade Kenneth Faried, Jusuf Nurkic + Memphis’s 2017 first round pick*
(or their 2x 2017 second round draft picks owed them by Memphis & Oklahoma City)*
Why would Denver do it?
Again, a fairly straight forward trade: Denver clears out a combo of their overcrowded front court and dumps the remaining salary on Faried’s contract. Lopez replaces both Faried and Nurkic in that Denver rotation, giving them a big who can seemingly play with Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets’ small-ball power forwards in Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari.
Is it strange to think Brooklyn could swing Faried, Nurkic, and a first? Perhaps that might be too ambitious, but the two seconds would obviously be preferred by Denver. The two second round draft picks for Denver were likely to be overseas stashes anyway, purely — similar to the bind the Boston Celtics have found themselves in — because of the amount of roster spots available to them. Denver already roll about fourteen players deep, and they have both their and Memphis’ protected first rounder in 2017, so they’ll have to move some chairs around regardless…
Why would Brooklyn do it?
In return, Brooklyn gets Faried — a dreadlocked, ultra-rebounding version of Trevor Booker — who isn’t an ideal fit as a hard-running power forward with limited offensive range and defensive holes, but get the bruising Nurkic to add some defensive heft to their middle. And at this point, the Nets would be happy with any and all draft picks they can get; if they couldn’t pry one of Denver’s first rounders loose, the two second rounders are a fine compromise.
Likelihood out of 10?
This one makes a bunch of sense: Denver have to do something, and Lopez would fit really nicely with their remaining big guys. Let’s say 6/10.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Nets trade: Brook Lopez
Trail Blazers trade: Meyers Leonard, Evan Turner + Cleveland’s 2018 1st round pick
Why would Portland do it?
(Note: no Trade Machine yet — Leonard can’t be traded until January 15th)
Dammit. There was such a great trade here with Lopez for Alan Crabbe and Meyers Leonard… but that Crabbe offer sheet comes back to bite the Nets in the ass again as the matched offer sheet means he can’t be traded to Brooklyn for 12 months). Dammit. Dammit. Ugh. The buyer’s remorse on Evan Turner is real in Portland, and moving him to let Lillard and C.J. McCollum get back to doing what they do best (uh, be Dame and C.J., obviously), while the Blazers clearly need someone in their front court who can score at least a little bit. That’s something Lopez can obviously do; plus, there’s a great history of the Blazers embracing a Lopii, so why not get the better twin?
(Although the younger, also injury-prone Nerlens Noel has be rumored as a potential target for Portland, Lopez may get them over the hump a bit quicker.)
Why would Brooklyn do it?
The clincher here is Cleveland’s 2018 1st round pick and a young pick-and-pop big in Meyers Leonard, who fits the bill of ‘three-point shooting big’ for the Nets, even if the rest of his game feels as undercooked as the strange haircut he recently chopped off with kitchen shears. And if you don’t want to move him to a contender in another, later-on move, Turner fits in with the Nets as a sorely-needed playmaker to run their second unit alongside Sean Kilpatrick when Jeremy Lin sits.
Oh, and we couldn’t resist reuniting Lopez with Mason Plumlee once again!
Likelihood out of 10?
3/10 — If Allen Crabbe was available to the Nets, this would be a no-brainer, but the Turner-in-place-of-Crabbe situation makes it a lot less likely.
Look out for Part II during your non-Nets related holiday weekend!