Brian Erni“Very available.”
That’s how Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio characterized Brook Lopez’s status when asked about the Brooklyn star center and the possibility of the Cavs adding a big man. It makes sense. Lopez is coming off his second season-ending foot surgery, he makes a ton of money and the Nets have a bit of a logjam emerging at center. But it makes absolutely zero sense to trade Lopez before the season, barring a trade offer that bowls the Nets over. Here’s why…
Lopez’s trade value is at an all-time low. While Zydrunas Ilgauskas is the poster child of the success story Lopez could be upon his return, that’s no certainty. Brook carried far more weight last year in hopes of playing more aggressive under the basket, and it may have have put more pressure on his foot. Therefore, not only is simply bouncing back and being the player he has proven he can be at the NBA level very much up in the air, but the particulars are as well. Will he come into camp lighter? What’s the best weight for him to play at and still be the presence inside that he was before the injury? All these questions alongside the very real possibility that Lopez could go down at any time.
So, with that in mind, what could the Nets realistically fetch in a trade? Would a team be willing to part with pick to give Brooklyn a single shot in the draft to land the next big thing? It’s interesting that the report comes out of Cleveland, back-to-back lottery winners, but if you ran the Cavs, would you give up your top pick in this deep draft for a player with this many question marks? It’s doubtful. And the Nets can’t afford to deal Lopez without getting a haul of talent back, because Lopez is no ordinary player.
We’re talking about a guy who has averaged 18 points per game through his career, and was posting 20.7 through 17 games before going down with the injury. He’s a difference maker, and borderline impossible to guard down low. Don’t be fooled by the Nets going on their run after Brook went down. He wasn’t the problem. Is he the best fit for Jason Kidd’s system? No, and Kidd admitted as much during the season. But that doesn’t mean Brooklyn should cut ties with him for nothing. Heck, they may be low on center options as it is.
The “crowded” center position? It’s very in flux. Retirement is a very real option for Kevin Garnett, Andray Blatche will opt out and declare free agency (I personally think he’ll be back, but there is more than a chance a team overpays for him), and Mason Plumlee only has (albeit a promising) 70 NBA games to his name. Those are a lot of question marks, and Billy King needs some of the ambiguity cleared up before he does anything with Lopez, because he may be in need of a center. And Brook Lopez is one heck of a center.
If Lopez can prove he’s still the same player post-surgery that was dominant to start last season — the one who played in 246 straight games to start his career — then the Nets will fetch a lot more in a deal. It may seem like a gamble, because if Lopez goes down in training camp of the preseason, he’ll be immovable, but the reward is too high and Brooklyn has too many questions not to let this situation play itself out.