Brook Lopez did not have a good 2021-22 season. He suffered a back injury that kept him out for all but 13 games of the regular season. But in the playoffs, Lopez turned up for the Milwaukee Bucks, starting all 12 of their postseason games, showing glimpses of returning to form even though he was getting up there in age.
And surely enough, the veteran center proved that he had a lot left in the tank following the stellar 2022-23 season he had for the Bucks. In fact, he is coming off the best season of his career apart from his days as the Brooklyn Nets' number one option.
Brook Lopez managed to remain healthy for most of the season, only missing four games due to rest. In 78 games, Lopez shot a career-high 37.4 percent from deep on 4.7 attempts per game, all the while putting in the best defensive work of his career to date. In addition to his ability to space the floor, he was one of the most imposing defensive presences in the paint in the entire NBA, averaging 2.5 blocks to anchor the Bucks' fourth-ranked defense.
Nevertheless, despite the Bucks' spectacular playoff flameout against the Miami Heat, the 35-year old center should be in line for one last huge contract. One would think that the Bucks, despite being on the wrong end of history, would decide to give their current core one more shot to run it back.
But during NBA free agency, anything can happen. Perhaps Lopez bolts in search of one last big payday. One thing's for sure: any team that would be acquiring Brook Lopez's services will be better off having done so.
Here are the three best destinations for the veteran center in free agency.
Without a doubt, staying with the Bucks appears to be the most sensible decision for Brook Lopez. After all, it was with the Bucks where Lopez found a new lease in life as a rim-protecting stretch big. Even with the hiring of new head coach Adrian Griffin, it's hard to envision the new coaching staff overhauling what has worked for a team that has won the most games since 2018 — which marks Lopez's arrival in the Cream City.
Lopez drew serious consideration as the 2023 Defensive Player of the Year for a reason. The Bucks' defensive system relied on funneling ballhandlers into Lopez's vicinity, with yet another DPOY-caliber player in Giannis Antetokounmpo protecting the backline on the rare times that Lopez was beat.
On offense, Brook Lopez, as much fanfare as his three-point shooting may draw, is more than just a floor spacer for Antetokounmpo's marauding drives. Lopez is a sturdy presence on the offensive glass, and teams cannot afford to go small on Lopez due to his ability to punish defenders on the block. After all, he began his career as a low-post threat, and that skillset of his has carried over deep into his career.
The only concern teams — the Bucks included — will have over Lopez will be his advanced age. At 35, it's fair to wonder for how much longer will he be able to play at the level he did last season. But the Bucks are doing their core a disservice if they choose to let go of a player who's been instrumental to their rise as one of the best teams in the NBA for the past five years.
The Mavs stand out as a potential contending team with a glaring flaw that Brook Lopez can help with immensely — rim protection. After trading for Kyrie Irving, the Mavs proceeded to hemorrhage points in the paint, and their lack of rebounding and interior defense ultimately led to them missing out on the play-in tournament entirely. Lopez also fits like a glove in the Mavs' perimeter-centric offense. It's easy to envision Lopez chilling in the corner or from the wing while Luka Doncic puts his defenders in the torture chamber.
However, there's a possibility that Lopez's slow-footedness when defending in space could be exposed given the Mavs' lack of solid defensive options on the perimeter outside of, perhaps, Reggie Bullock and Josh Green. Lopez should be as impactful as ever when defending in the paint, but the Bucks' defense works as well as it has for the past few years thanks to the presence of other quality defenders.
Nevertheless, if the Mavs can carve out the necessary cap space to sign Brook Lopez, that would solve a lot of their roster issues.
Yes, the Thunder will have Chet Holmgren coming back from injury. It stands to reason that the Thunder will want to see what they have in the second overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft, handing him the keys to the OKC frontcourt from day one.
But if the Thunder want to insure Holmgren against having to bang bodies with some of the most bruising centers in the NBA, they could very well choose to sign Brook Lopez.
Lopez's veteran smarts should also be a welcome addition to the locker room of the youngest team in the NBA, which is just the cherry on top of the two-way impact he will have for any team that acquires his services.