Taking the ‘Brook’ out of Brooklyn: What the Nets Should Do with Brook Lopez
I’m going to be blunt: the Brooklyn Nets suck! As a Nets fan, these past few years have been the most trying times as a Nets fan. That’s saying a lot considering the Nets have been a preliminary bad team for most of their existence. The team’s recent struggles however are the bleakest because the light at the end of the tunnel is a lot dimmer than in years past. The ridiculous trade with the Boston Celtics that landed the Nets Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett is really starting to sting now that the Nets are the worst team in basketball, and for the next two years, will not have the right draft picks to compensate for it.
Furthermore, this past summer proved that NOBODY wants to join the Nets in free agency. And I mean NOBODY. With a dysfunctional roster, and not much ability to improve via the draft or free agency, the only other possibility for the Nets is trade some of their assets away. The biggest asset would be center Brook Lopez. The eight year vet has been a Net his entire career, and has been the Nets best player for most of his time with New Jersey and Brooklyn.
The question is, can the Nets afford to trade away their best player, and really, their only quality player at this point? What can they get back for him? And what would they do once Brook is gone? Let’s jump into the pros and cons of trading Lopez and see if the Nets should keep in the borough, or trade him away for greener pastures.
By trading Brook away, the Nets can get back young players and/or draft picks that the Nets can use to build for the future. The team currently will swap picks with Boston this year, and would not have a first round pick next year, so if the Nets could get some draft picks and young players back, even if the draft picks might not be that good, could help the Nets going forward.
If the Nets trade Lopez away, the team can focus even more on the young players that are already on the team. Guys like Caris LeVert, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are two young players that the Nets are hoping can develop into stars in the future. With Brook gone, head coach Kenny Atkinson could focus even more on their development, and give those two more minutes and a higher workload to speed up the development process. If Brook’s departure means that LeVert and Jefferson blossom into stars, then the Nets should consider making the move.
Lastly, do it for Brook. I love teams that show loyalty to the players that show loyalty to them. Lopez has been a proud member of the franchise since the day he stepped onto the floor. He’s been a constant professional, and a fan favorite. If he wants to stay, let him stay. However, although he’s only 28, he is reaching the end of his prime soon in the next four-to-five years. If he’s ok with being traded, the Nets should try to move him to a team that is trying to compete right now. No team that also stinks is going to want to give up their young assets and draft picks to get Lopez, so the only reasonable thing to do is trade him to a team that is one star away from competing. You won’t get the same value in return for Lopez, but you will do right by the guys that’s done right by you ever since you selected him tenth overall in 2008.
The cons mirror the pros, only looking at the glass half empty instead of half full. The first con is value. Lopez is a great player, but not great enough where you’ll have your pick of the litter in trade scenarios. The phone isn’t necessarily ringing off the hook for a center that can’t rebound, plays little defense, and has an injury history. If you trade Lopez, there’s a good chance that you won’t get nearly enough value in return for him. Draft picks are great, but if you’re only getting end-of-the-round picks, chances are that you’re not going to be able to draft a player, or even players, that will help the team out as much as Brook Lopez can. Barring injury, you’re going to get at least another four-or-five years of prime Lopez, who might be one of the most underrated players in the league. The Nets are going to be a horrible team with, or without, Lopez. If you’re going to get young talent or draft picks, they need to be assets that will help lift the team from the cellar, not just make them more unwatchable while they’re in it.
We spoke about the development of the other young players on the team. Well, if Lopez is gone, there’s the chance of a trade stunting their young players development, rather than improving it. Yes, a lot of the Nets offense goes through Brook, and that could slow down the development process of LeVert and Jefferson. However, Lopez leaving could halt their development altogether. Having a guy like Lopez on the team to take most of the offensive load isn’t the worst thing for a young player. Lopez’s presence, you can argue, makes everyone else’s job much easier. You take him away, and focus primarily on the two young guys, you run the risk of overloading them too early. The other New York team, the Knicks are having the same dilemma with their roster. Do you keep Carmelo Anthony, who is clearly stunting Kristaps Porzingis’ development, or get rid of Anthony, and risk the pressure of being “the face of the franchise” destroying Kristaps altogether? If the Nets are ready to turn the page, they better be certain that the next chapter has a happy ending.
Lastly, Brook Lopez is a Net. By the time the guy retires, he’ll probably be on the Mount Rushmore of all-time Nets greats. I know that doesn’t say much considering that the Nets haven’t had the greatest history of franchise players, but that still means something. An unlike Jason Kidd, who might be the greatest Net of all time, Lopez was drafted by the Nets and has been here his entire career. If Lopez deserves to be on a winning team, he deserves to be on a winning NETS team that much more. The Nets still have plenty of great Lopez years left to continue to try to build around him and see if they can compete. The guy loves being a Net, and the fans love him. Don’t make the fans suffer by giving away their favorite player in the process of the rebuild.
I believe the Nets shouldn’t trade Lopez. I only see one scenario (I’ll get into that in a second) where they would actually get enough value back for him. I also don’t see enough from LeVert or Jefferson for me to be comfortable handing over the keys to the franchise to them just yet either. The team isn’t going anywhere in the next few years, they need to keep any assets they have if they want to have a chance to compete soon. Trading Lopez might hurt their chances of getting better more than helping them.
The one scenario that I think would be a good idea is if they trade Lopez to the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are looking for more pieces to add to their young team, and Brook would give them another scorer so that Isaiah Thomas doesn’t have to be superman every night for them to win. In exchange, the Nets should ask for one of THEIR two picks back, and/or Jaylen Brown, the rookie that Celtics got in last year’s draft with the Nets pick.
It’s a balance of the perfect world: the Nets have a trade partner with a team that may want/need Lopez, and in exchange, get back QUALITY talent and draft picks in return, because it will be THEIR picks, and not the Celtics.
The only problem is, I don’t think the Celtics will want that trade. I think they still believe that they can use those Nets picks and/or Brown to trade for an even better superstar. Unless they get desperate, and can’t find another dance partner, I don’t see them “settling” for Lopez, even though he could help them.
If the Celtics don’t want Lopez, then the Nets should stay the course and hope the LeVert and Jefferson can become difference makers. They may not get the pick of the litter in free agency, but if the Nets can snag quality role players in the next few summers, they may have a roster that will be ready to compete in a few years. I’m not saying the Nets shouldn’t even consider trading Brook, but I want them to be smart and just dip their feet in the water before they decide to dive into the trading pool. And yes, pun definitely intended.