In case you’ve been living under a rock and missed it, the Los Angeles Lakers traded point guard D’Angelo Russell in a salary dump to the Brooklyn Nets for the 27th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and Brook Lopez.
While it remains to be seen whether the Lakers will actually use their picks by the time they are on the clock, Lopez will almost certainly be on LA’s opening day roster.
No, the Lakers did not bring in Lopez to get eviscerated by Larry Nance, Jr. in practices (Editor’s Note: That does NOT mean that won’t happen). They brought him in as a floor spacing big man who can provide scoring and complement their young core while not sacrificing future flexibility. Lopez isn’t going to save the Lakers, but at the very least he will be a useful player in 2017-18.
Lopez does bring some injury concerns. He played a grand total of 168 games from 2011-15 and the nature of his injuries (foot and ankle tweaks) isn’t exactly great for a seven-footer about to turn 30. However, Lopez managed to stay healthy over the past two seasons and has remained productive.
One of the big positives about Lopez is his basketball IQ, especially with regards to shot selection. Lopez has changed his game significantly to fit into the modern basketball era. After taking 31 threes over his first eight seasons in the league, Lopez took 387 last year while connecting on a respectable 35 percent of his attempts. This accounted for 33 percent of his total shot attempts, according to basketball-reference.com
Lopez also doesn’t settle for inefficient mid-range shots. Only 14.5 percent of his total shots last year were in between 10 feet away from the basket and the three-point line, meaning he’s either going to shoot within 10 feet of the hoop or from deep. He takes the most efficient shots on the floor and the Lakers desperately need a big man who can do that.
Lopez isn’t a great rebounder or rim protector considering his size, but the Lakers can pair him with either Julius Randle or Nance effectively. Lopez will provide efficient scoring on all levels while letting Randle and Nance Jr. do what they do best. With Randle, Lopez can space the floor and give the young power forward room to operate in the paint. With Nance, Lopez’s average defensive skills will be less noticeable.
Another positive with Lopez is his expiring contract. The Lakers don’t have any commitment to him beyond this upcoming season, meaning the team has plenty of cap space in the important summer of 2018. If Lopez fits well, the Lakers can certainly look to bring him back on a cheaper deal. Lopez can even bring in some value at the trade deadline as an expiring contract if the Lakers are struggling mightily but he is playing well.
The Lakers parted with an important young player in a trade they might not have had to make, but at the very least Lopez gives the Lakers some flexibility while also providing a lift on the court, something the franchise desperately needs. If he can stay healthy, Lopez will have a very productive season in Los Angeles.