The Lakers shocked the NBA world on Tuesday as they traded D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and their 27th pick in this year’s draft. As the shock and tremor subsides, trying to unpack this trade is not easy. The Nets felt that Russell could be the cornerstone of their franchise, and the Lakers were desperate enough to unload Mozgov’s salary, dealing away their former lottery selection.
What might be lost in the confusion is that the Lakers received a decent upgrade at the center position in Brook Lopez, whose contract is set to expire at the end next season. Lopez might be a one-year rental with the Lakers, but his game and presence could prove valuable for the Lakers. Last year, the one-time all-star averaged 20.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists. No Laker averaged more than 16 points a game last season.
Lopez will offer the Lakers something that no center on their team could do last year—stretch the floor. Lopez is a legit seven-footer that loves to shoot from deep. Last season, Lopez shot a career-high 34 percent from deep and made a career-high 134 3-pointers.
Lopez wasn’t always the deep threat big as he is now. In his eight previous seasons, he only made three 3-pointers total. The transformation from being only a low-post player into a versatile stretch-five big man will allow the Lakers to have a legit scoring option next season.
Lopez would remedy a lot of spacing issues the Lakers had last season. Not only is Lopez competent from deep, he is also respectable from mid-range. According to Basketball Reference, from 10 to 16 feet out on the paint, Lopez shot 47 percent last season. In comparison, Mozgov shot only 44 percent from the same distance.
If the Lakers take Lonzo Ball with the second pick in Thursday’s draft, Lopez’s shooting range and the threat from deep would fit effortlessly with Ball. During his time at UCLA, Ball played with TJ Leaf, a skilled center who could stretch the floor. The two were an impressive offensive combo. Although Lopez isn’t quite the athletic and mobile big that Ball is used to playing with, his ability to stretch the floor will be invaluable for his rookie point guard.
Last year, Lopez played with Jeremy Lin, a well-known operator of the pick-and-roll. Both players were a great match for each other. Lopez’s ability to pick or pop opened the driving lanes for Lin to either attack, shoot or pass. It is not outlandish to predict that Ball and Lopez would make a great duo together in Los Angeles. Ball’s ability to attack defenses would open with the spacing and help that Lopez provides. The two could excel together in the pick-and-roll game, which is often the focus of Luke Walton’s offense.
Lopez’s presence would also help the likes of Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram. Randle and Ingram’s inability to hit shots from deep stagnated and clogged up the Lakers’ offense. Defenses would be hesitant to force Randle and Ingram to drive into the paint because that could leave Lopez open.
Although he provides spacing, scoring and passing, Lopez is not a perfect player. There are still valid concerns about his rebounding and defense. It is not common to see a seven-footer only averaged five rebounds a game.
Despite his defensive liabilities, there is little to lose with playing Lopez. He can pass, score in the paint and shoot efficiently from deep. Lopez is also on a team friendly contract, which means the Lakers can trade him next season or let his contract expired to add more cap space.