With the likes of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, and other stars hitting the NBA free agency market, the sport is bound to endure a historic offseason. At the same time, there’s also going to be plenty of glanced over veterans available who could be the missing piece and/or player who lifts a team into title contention, such as center Brook Lopez.
Lopez signed a one-year, $3.4 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks last summer. Little did anyone know that he would become the biggest steal of free agency. Lopez started 81 games for the Bucks and was a pivotal piece in them securing the one seed in the Eastern Conference, as well as appearing in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001.
Here are three ideal free agent landing spots for Lopez.
The Mavericks are expected to max out Kristaps Porzingis in free agency, and doing so will ensure them having an intriguing one-two scoring punch with the big man and Luka Doncic. At the same time, the Mavericks need depth, and Lopez would be a nice complement to Porzingis’ game.
Lopez modernized his game with the Bucks this season. While he wasn’t amongst the league leaders in three-point shooting efficiency, Lopez shot a career-best 36.5 percent from beyond the arc and created separation for the Bucks offense.
Sure, Lopez and Porzingis are/have become players who play out on the perimeter, but Lopez would do more damage with the Mavericks playing inside — which he’s fully capable of. Him doing so would allow Porzingis to get more clean looks from beyond the arc. Plus, while he’s a reliable defender and gets physical, Porzingis has been pushed around a bit when he tries to play inside. Lopez would be the immovable object by his side, taking pressure off him and making the Mavericks offense more lethal.
Scoring isn’t the Mavericks’ issue. Added onto Doncic and Porzingis, head coach Rick Carlisle has wings capable of scoring at a high level and/or sticking the outside jumper, such as Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, and Justin Jackson; they need a defensive anchor who can make an impact on both ends of the floor.
The future is now for the Mavericks, and they should be prioritizing getting players who mesh well with Doncic and Porzingis; Lopez would round out a stellar frontline.
With Willie Cauley-Stein likely leaving Sacramento in free agency, the Kings have to find a starting center for the 2019-20 season; Lopez would be a phenomenal pickup for new head coach Luke Walton.
De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield are one of the best young scoring duos in the NBA and can only improve with time, but Cauley-Stein was a vital piece to the Kings offense. He was on the receiving end of alley-oops, finished relentlessly, and was a big body inside. With that said, you could argue Lopez would be an even better fit in their offense.
Fox, Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Marvin Bagley have shown an ability to chip in on the offensive end at a high level from playing with aggression and sticking three-pointers. Imagine having a center who did that too?
Lopez would likely play inside more with the Kings, but him doing so would provide them with a presence they’ve been devoid of from a big man since DeMarcus Cousins. Plus, when Lopez spots up from beyond the arc, it’ll open up opportunity for Hield and Fox to feast in one-on-one sets. On the other end of the floor, Lopez is a reliable defender. He doesn’t leave his feet, is a rim protector, and defends the post well.
The Kings have roughly $59 million in cap space, and Lopez wouldn’t take up even half of their money. Signing the big man would fill a void and allow them to build a deep bench to complement their budding young core. The Western Conference is stacked, but the Kings could be the 2020 version of this season’s Denver Nuggets with such changes.
The grass isn’t always greener elsewhere, and Lopez was a perfect fit with the Bucks this season.
Hiring Mike Budenholzer to be their head coach was a vital role in the success the Bucks experienced, but signing Lopez was just as critical. One year ago, the Bucks offense was predictable. It was either give the ball to Giannis Antetokounmpo and get out of the way, or spot up from beyond the arc; that model lost to a Boston Celtics team playing without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward in the first round of the playoffs. With Lopez, the Bucks were an entirely different team.
The center completely modernized his game and advanced the Bucks offense. Lopez spotting up from long distance allowed Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe to attack the lane and wings such as Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon to stick the outside jumper. Lopez also served as a defensive anchor. He recorded an impressive 2.2 blocks in just 28.7 minutes per game and rounded out what was an elite defensive unit.
The Bucks have some difficult decisions to make this offseason with Middleton, Brogdon, and Lopez, among others, testing free agency. In all likelihood, the Bucks are going to have to remake their bench. At the same time, Lopez could be had at an affordable rate, and they have the inside track on him.
Even if they lose a core player, the Bucks will still be in contention next season. When it comes to pure fit, Lopez staying in Milwaukee is the best-case scenario for his game.