Last season the Brooklyn Nets flirted with the possibility of landing Dwight Howard in exchange for young center Brook Lopez before deciding to keep Lopez and ink him to a max contract extension. It’s looking like the Nets made the right decision.
Lopez was on the shelf all but five games last season after playing in every game his first three NBA seasons, causing the Nets to be concerned if Lopez was worth the four-year, $60 million investment or if they should gamble on Howard. It wasn’t as if Lopez wasn’t a good player; he averaged 17.4 points over his first four seasons since being drafted 10th overall by the Nets in 2008. But extending Lopez did come with some question marks besides the injuries.
Lopez is only a mediocre rebounder at best. Lopez averaged 7.5 rebounds through his first four years, including a career-low 6.0 rebounds per game in 2010-2011. Lopez also isn’t a strong post defender.
But what Lopez is, is an above-average offensive player. Lopez has a post game reminiscent of a poor man’s Tim Duncan, with jump hooks, bank shots and excellent footwork. Lopez’s offensive skills in the post have been a nice compliment to the Nets perimeter scorers Joe Johnson and point guard Deron Williams. Lopez’s play this season even earned him his first trip to the All-Star game this season. On top of that, Lopez is still only 24.
While Dwight Howard may have a reputation as a defensive game changer when healthy, the Nets were wise to avoid the drama and uncertainty that comes along with Howard and keep Lopez. So far, the Nets appear to have make the right choice by sticking with the young big man.