Brook Lopez’s first and perhaps only season with the Los Angeles Lakers was certainly an interesting one, for various reasons.
The big man was acquired in a shocking trade last summer that seemed to divide the fan base a bit, as Lopez was sent to Los Angeles from Brooklyn, along with the No. 27 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft in exchange for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov. The deal landed the Lakers Lopez’s huge expiring contract and the pick that ended up becoming Kyle Kuzma, while parting ways with Mozgov’s lucrative and lengthy cap hit and a young, promising prospect in Russell.
At the time, many fans (myself included) were caught up in the team giving up on Russell, the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. While trading away young talent in exchange for cap space is a practice that can still lead to severe results on both sides of the spectrum, it could be a major success for the Lakers if they can land the big fish free agents they will pursue next month.
The trade was certainly controversial at the time and the fallout is yet to be completed, but it all clouded the fact that the Lakers were getting a quality player in Lopez. After nine seasons with the Nets in both New Jersey and Brooklyn, Lopez overcame a slow start this season to become a formidable starting center for the purple and gold.
Lopez played in 74 games for the Lakers, averaging 13 points, four rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 23.4 minutes per game. His base stats may not appear to be impressive, especially after coming off back-to-back seasons where he averaged over 20 points per game. But the skill set Lopez provided for the Lakers played a key role in helping the team improve their win total by nine games from 2016-17, even with a plethora of injuries.
Lopez’s 34.5 percent shooting from the three-point line on 4.4 attempts per game allowed for better offensive spacing, which helped create more room for guys like Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram to attack the basket. On the other end of the floor, Lopez at times served as an adequate rim protector for the Lakers, utilizing his size and length to contest shots in the paint.
The presence of Lopez immensely helped the Lakers on the court at times, even if some of it may not show up in the stat sheet. But it was also nice for the Lakers to have his veteran leadership in a locker room filled with younger talent. The Lakers have had veterans on the roster the past few years, but having Lopez as a guy that can make considerable contributions on the court as well was noteworthy.
All in all, Lopez had his fair share of ups and downs this season with the Lakers. While he had some monster offensive performances and made some big plays, he also had some duds in there as well. His presence altogether, though, should be considered a net positive at the end of the day.
The question now is: Will he be back? The Lakers will most certainly renounce his Bird right to free up as much salary cap space as they can in their attempt to sign two max free agents this summer. Lopez stated he would be open to taking a discount to re-sign with the Lakers if they looked to be a legitimate threat to contend in the playoffs next season. Could we see a scenario such as the Lakers landing Paul George, re-signing Randle and bringing Lopez back? How far would that take the team in a tough Western Conference?
Plenty of questions remain on Lopez’s free agency and potential future in Los Angeles. Only time will tell, but if Lopez has played his final games as a Laker, his brief stint was about all the team could ask from him in the situation he walked into.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @garykester. All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.
Lakers definitely won that Lopez trade because of the Kuzma pick, even if Lopez only plays 1 season. Just having D’Angelo Russell gone is a huge win, such a selfish player.