Stealing Brook Lopez from the Bucks!
Why the Lakers should use the $6 million in cap space left after signing a superstar to a max deal to bring back Brook Lopez
The Lakers front office has a unique out-of-the-box opportunity to make up for one of the major mistakes they made last summer by stealing dead-eye three-point shooting stretch center Brook Lopez from the Milwaukee Bucks.
After being spurned by the Lakers last summer, Lopez ended up signing a $3.4 million one-year deal with the Bucks where he has become invaluable as a stretch five spreading the floor to create space for Giannis Antetokounmpo. Unleashed in the Bucks’ offense, Brook redefined what a stretch five can do, leading all NBA centers by taking a league record 497 three-point attempts, 145 more than any other center, and making 185 or 37.2% of his threes.
For a team desperate to surround LeBron James with elite three-point shooters, Lopez should be at the top the Lakers’ list of elite shooters. He took the 16th most and made the 14th most threes in the league regardless of position. while averaging 12.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and a league second best 2.2 blocks in 28.7 minutes per game compared to 13.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.3 blocks in 23.4 minutes per game with Lakers.
The big question, of course, is what would the Lakers have to do to steal Brook away from the Bucks, where he’s thrived and truly broken out as the league’s most dangerous stretch five. The answer, of course, is money. Assuming the Lakers sign Jimmy Butler or another free agent superstar to a $32.7 million max deal, that would leave the Lakers with around $6 million in cap space, which could be enough to lure Brook back to Los Angeles.
Born in North Hollywood, Brook Lopez went to college at Stanford and has spent most of his life in California. He is also one of four of the Bucks’ starters who will be free agents this summer along with Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, and Eric Bledsoe, meaning the small market Bucks are likely to be pressed hard to come up with the money to keep all four of them. An offer of close to $20 million over three years to come home to L.A. could steal him.
The Lakers only other option as a stretch center would be Nikola Vucevic, who’s averaging 20.6 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 31.3 minutes per game with the Magic and will be looking for a near max contract this summer. Vucevic has hit 80 of 220 threes for 36.4% this year, which is his best year from deep in his career and only the third year he has taken more than 9 threes in a season. While Vucevic is an excellent all around center, he is not a proven stretch five and not likely worth a max contract.
The ideal situation for the Lakers would be for Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka to admit their mistake and go hard to lure Brook Lopez to come back to the Lakers as their starting center. He is exactly what they need to create space for LeBron and an elite target for him to find when he attacks the paint. The Lakers could then use their $4 million room exception to keep JaVale McGee as their back up center, giving them a powerful due to man the five.