Could he get shipped before the deadline?
Brook Lopez could make any NBA team better. At seven feet tall, Lopez possesses offensive skills that many NBA bigs couldn’t dream of. As the trade deadline approaches, it would be wise for potential contenders to consider adding Lopez as the final piece to a championship puzzle.
Lopez is an offensive freak. He is second in the NBA this season among centers in points per game with 20.2, only behind DeMarcus Cousins (27.2 ppg). But Lopez shoots at a much higher percentage, shooting 50% to Cousins’ 44.6%. Lopez is a rare big that plays well both faced up to and with his back to the basket. He is considered a “finesse big man,” and has mastered the mid-range jumper. This season, he is shooting 46% between the three point line and the paint. For comparison sake, James Harden, one of the best premier shooters in the NBA, has shot 43% this season from the same area. As you can see, Lopez holds the advantage in percentage in the paint and the mid-range areas.
Lopez ranks 20th in the NBA in player efficiency rating, right ahead of Damian Lillard and Jimmy Butler. Not too shabby, right? Unfortunately, he is stuck on a 12-38 roster that sits ahead of only one team in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers. Brooklyn looks to be in trouble for years to come, and may start the rebuilding process next year with aging star Joe Johnson in the final year of his massive contract. Brooklyn could easily move Lopez to contending teams for future first round picks, which could push a playoff team into serious contention.
There have been two major questions about Brook Lopez throughout his career: his health and his defense. When you’re seven feet tall, you tend to be prone to injury, especially around your legs and feet. Lopez played all 82 games in the first three years of his career, but has struggled to stay on the floor in the last four years. But, in what is now his eighth season in the league, Lopez has started every single game and has shown no signs of the foot injuries from the past. Lopez has actually improved statistically as the season has progressed, averaging 23.5 points in his last 15 games, a good sign for those worried about Lopez’s health.
Defensively, Lopez is no slouch. Because of his ability to score, we often measure his success by points and offensive efficiency. Lopez gets a lot of criticism defensively, but he clearly can hold his own. According to fastbreak.com, opponents within six feet of the rim are shooting 10.1 percent worse against Lopez than they are against the rest of the league. Lopez also ranks eighth in the NBA in blocks per game, right ahead of Karl-Anthony Towns and behind Kristaps Porzingis. What he lacks in quickness and athleticism he makes up for with his 7‘5 1/2 wingspan along with excellent timing and intelligence.
If you look around the league, most contending teams have a shooting big man. The Cavs have Kevin Love. The Spurs have LaMarcus Aldridge. The Warriors have Draymond Green. But, as far as shooting big men go, Lopez may just be the cream of the crop.
It’s clear that Lopez’s offensive skills combined with his above-average defense would allow him to be successful on a plethora of teams. He makes a little over $19 million this year, and is set to make $21 million next year. But with the salary cap set to boom to $90 million, more teams can look to add Lopez at the end of the season, or before the deadline.
Clippers: After making many headlines in the past couple weeks because of the unfortunate activities surrounding Blake Griffin, there is speculation around the league that LA may be looking to move him. Because DeAndre Jordan plays so close to the basket, Griffin shoots far too many jumpers trying to avoid attracting double teams. Griffin is much better inside the paint, and could do more damage elsewhere. This is the reason why many analysts are intrigued with the idea of a Kevin Love for Blake Griffin since Love plays better outside the paint. But Love has only shot 36.4% from three this season, and 39% from between the paint and three point line. So if you’re LA, why not look at Lopez?
With Griffin scheduled to make almost the same amount of money as Lopez next year, the Clippers could consider making this deal before the deadline. Lopez would be the perfect complement to DeAndre Jordan, relieving double teams and giving Chris Paul a much better pick and pop option than Griffin. Also, at the end of games when teams intentionally foul Jordan and LA has to take him out, the Clippers are left without a big man. Lopez, a 78% foul shooter, could take over as the sole big man late in games and still do an above-average job protecting the rim.
As you can see below, Brook Lopez is a higher percentage shooter than Kevin Love and Blake Griffin, two premier big men in this league. Lopez is a much better mid-range shooter than both, and although it is unlikely to happen, a Griffin for Lopez trade could end up benefiting LA.
Boston Celtics: The Celtics have won eight of their last 10 and currently sit third in the East. Cleveland is the clear favorite in the East, and nobody really expects them to have much trouble getting back to the finals. But after a 104-103 win in Cleveland last week, Boston looks like they are for real. Kelly Olynyk has played really well for Boston, but he doesn’t have nearly the same offensive skills as Lopez. Both Isiah Thomas and Avery Bradley would love to have a scoring big inside and out to complement their attacking style, and trading Brooklyn some future picks in exchange for Lopez could put Boston in the hunt for an NBA finals appearance come April.
In all likelihood, Boston will not be coming out of the Eastern Conference unless they make a major move at the deadline. Interestingly enough, Boston owns the rights to the Brooklyn first round pick in 2016. So, the worse Brooklyn does, the better the chance Boston has at the first pick? Wouldn’t Brooklyn love to control their own destiny? They would love to get their own pick this year because they are so bad, and the Celtics could look to make this trade before the deadline.
Boston has four first-round and four second-round picks next season, and 11 total first rounders over the next four years. Boston could easily negotiate with Brooklyn to get Lopez because if you’re Brooklyn, and you don’t intend to make Lopez the guy to build around in the future, you are going to let him go anyways. Brooklyn would love to get something for Lopez, giving Boston more leverage on the possible deal. This season is a lost cause for the Nets, and it would be beneficial to acquire additional picks to try and build a respectable franchise in years to come.
The additional of Lopez could seriously improve Boston’s chances at a title run this year. With Kevin Durant likely to test the free agent market, he could easily end up in the Eastern Conference in Washington or New York. The East is relatively weak this season, and Cleveland has shown vulnerability. If Boston signs Lopez without giving up any current players, which they easily can do by giving up one or two first round picks, they could rival Cleveland. And with 11 first-round picks in the next four years, Boston won’t ruin their future if they give up a few.
All statistics courtesy of NBA.com/stats, Basketball-reference.com, and vorped.com
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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