On Tuesday, when the Los Angeles Lakers took on the Milwaukee Bucks at the Fiserv Forum, Brook Lopez lit up his former team with a season-high 28 points on 8-14 shooting from the field, including 5-11 from behind the arc to go along with a game-high four blocks.
On the season, Lopez is averaging 12.5 points per game while draining the 13th-most 3-pointers in the NBA and blocking the second-most shots. He’s also one of two players averaging at least 10 points per game while making at least 35 percent of his 3-point attempts and swatting away at least two blocks per game. The other is Myles Turner, who is in the final year of his rookie contract and still makes more than the $3.3 million Lopez is making this season.
Lopez’s unique combination of shooting and shot-blocking would have fit well alongside LeBron James, who has thrived with floor-spacing big men throughout his career, but unfortunately, the Lakers decided to let Lopez walk in free agency last summer.
Before the Lakers tipped off against the Bucks on Tuesday, head coach Luke Walton was asked if he thought Lopez would have been a valuable asset to the team if he stayed, but Walton was uninterested in answering the theoretical question (via SpectrumSportsNet):
“Hypotheticals, I’m not getting into those, but he’s a good player and I enjoyed coaching him.”
However, despite the fact that he didn’t answer the question, it’s safe to assume Walton would have liked to have Lopez back.
The Lakers have struggled to find any semblance of consistency at the center position this season with JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler battling injuries and illness, and Moe Wagner and Mike Muscala having a hard time figuring things out. Lopez, who has yet to miss a game this season, would be an asset because of his health alone.
There have also been rumors that Walton actually advocated for Lopez to come back last summer. Earlier this month, Bill Oram of The Athletic reported that Walton made it clear to the front office that he wanted both Lopez and Juliu Randle back with the team, but they decided to go in a different direction:
After delivering James in July, Johnson ignored the pleas of the coaching staff that he retain Brook Lopez and Julius Randle. Instead, he signed controversial and limited journeymen JaVale McGee, Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson.
That sounds like a totally normal and healthy working relationship, doesn’t it?
At the end of the day, though, Walton’s right. We can play “what if?” for the rest of the season and it still won’t change the fact that the Lakers are set to miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year.
All Lakers fans can do now is hope that the front office can learn from the mistakes they made last summer.