Jan 13, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) walks towards the bench during the fourth quarter in a game against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Toronto Raptors won 132-113. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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After years of being on the trade block, Brook Lopez may finally be dealt at this upcoming trade deadline. Due to the Brooklyn Nets‘ limited draft picks, the trade seems more likely by the day.
As a fan of a sports team, the worst feeling is seeing your team plummet to the bottom. Less than two years ago, the Brooklyn Nets sat at eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Now, they are not only the worst team in the Eastern Conference, but in the entire league with a record of 8-33. Jeremy Lin is currently injured, and Brooklyn has not been able to pick up a single win in the year 2017.
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With no control over their own draft picks until the 2019 NBA Draft, there are not many options for the Nets, except to wait another two years to really kick in their rebuild. That is, unless the Nets decide to pull the trigger and finally make a move that has seemed to be rumored each and every season, and that move is trading Brook Lopez.
As a diehard and lifelong Nets fan, this is something that is tough for me to think about. Should the Nets keep Lopez and hope he can hang around for another five to ten years until they are possibly a title contender, or should they let Lopez possibly contend for a title this season? The latter option may have the best possible outcome for the Brooklyn Nets. The reason being, Lopez simply doesn’t seem to fit in Brooklyn’s plan, both on and off the court.
Jan 12, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) is fouled as he moves by New Orleans Pelicans power forward Terrence Jones (9) during the fourth quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Lopez Doesn’t Fit in the Current Style of the NBA
Lopez is a true throwback center. He can body players down low and from an offensive standpoint and mostly do everything that you’d expect from a starting center in the league. However, there is one thing that he has never thrived in, and that’s rebounding.
The 7-footer is only averaging five rebounds on the dot so far this season, and that isn’t any help to the Nets, who have been one of, if not the worst, defensive team in the NBA this season. When you have a center who doesn’t exactly fit your offense and cannot do what a center of his style of play and size should do, which is block, rebound, and defend the basketball, it just adds some fuel to the flame and makes you think that maybe Lopez’s time in a black-and-white uniform may be up in less than a month.
It should definitely be noted however, that Lopez has done his best to try and fit into Kenny Atkinson’s offense. Lopez had only made three three-pointers in his entire career before this season. This season, Lopez has hit 66 three-pointers, and the NBA season is not even at the All-Star Break yet. Thus, you can’t say Lopez isn’t trying his best to fit in Atkinson’s offense. He’s doing whatever it takes to make it work, even if that means expanding and changing his game as much as he possibly could.
Jan 8, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson reacts with center Brook Lopez (11) during the second quarter against Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports
The Nets Aren’t Winning, Even With Lopez
Despite another solid season from the big guy, it isn’t translating in the win column. He is having one of the best seasons of his career if you look at his per 36 minutes stats, but like aforementioned, the Nets have only won eight of their first 41 games. Even though the focus isn’t on the record of the team, every loss hurts a little more, as the Nets will be forced swap picks with the Celtics this year, giving up a projected top-three pick.
Also, winning can be huge for confidence and progression of players. That may not always be the case, but sometimes, it can be a big help. I understand that the Nets and the front office have stated multiple times that they’re not focused on their record, but it does have to sting to know they could’ve possibly owned the top pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
With an 8-33 record, it doesn’t get much worse, at least not this season. The Lopez trade would only seem to make the Nets’ record, which the team has said they are not focused on, even worse. However, that may not be the case. The trade can potentially be a case of addition by subtraction.
Dec 10, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) shoots the ball over San Antonio Spurs center Pau Gasol (16) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Teams Have Improved After Trading Big Men
In the last few years, we’ve been some great examples of addition by subtraction. Two seasons ago, both the Detroit Pistons and Utah Jazz played better when getting rid of one of their respective big men. The Pistons bought out the contract of veteran forward Josh Smith and were in the playoff picture before an injury to Brandon Jennings occurred.
The Utah Jazz sent Enes Kanter to the Oklahoma City Thunder. As a result of that trade, the Jazz later owned the best record following the 2015 trade deadline in not only the West, but the entire league. Perhaps all the Nets need to do is a little bit of subtraction to their roster in order to see some additions in the win column.
Jan 13, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) talks with Toronto Raptors super fan Nav Bhatia during the warm up before a game at Air Canada Centre.The Toronto Raptors won 132-113. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
It seems almost every season, Brook Lopez finds himself on the trade block. Year after year, rumors surface due to how much interest is drawn from other teams, the Nets needing assets, and the Nets’ records each season since he’s been drafted.
As a fan of the team, it would definitely be upsetting and different to see one of the franchise’s best players in another jersey. I grew up watching the beginning of Lopez’s career and after hearing the trade rumors year after year, it seems that this year may finally be the year that the Nets pull the trigger if offered the right deal. The current asking price from the Nets is two draft picks, so it should be interesting to see how the next couple of weeks play out in Brooklyn.
Before the firings of Billy King and Sean Marks, it seemed the Nets wanted to go in more of an old-school direction. They had an old-school center in Lopez to build around that would help keep them respectable for the time being. Now, the team is going for an uptempo style of offense, one that does not seem to have a place for a 7-foot wide body like Lopez.
The Nets have the highest pace out of any team in the NBA, so one has to think at one point, Kenny Atkinson will want a center that can complement some of his guards and run up the floor on the break for some easy points. Justin Hamilton has played very nicely in Atkinson’s offense but he is not a starting quality center.
That’s an example of the problem the Nets face. It’s very hard to find great big men that will fit in their offense, but at the same time, it would be smart to trade Lopez while they are still able to get multiple assets from him for the future.
So what direction will Sean Marks choose to go in? It’s tough to say, but which one is the correct direction? Many would say trading Lopez to a contender is the way to go, and I agree. February 23rd may be a day Nets fans remember for years to come.