When Brook Lopez was drafted by the then-New Jersey Nets 10th overall in 2008, it was considered an absolute steal.
His first three seasons in the NBA, Lopez didn’t miss a game, averaging 17 points, 7.5 rebounds, and almost two blocks per contest. He developed into one of the best offensive centers in the league, and at 24 years old, his star was on the rise.
Then 2011 happened.
In the preseason before the 2011-12 NBA campaign, Lopez broke his right foot and missed all but five games that year. Ever since, Lopez has had lingering foot and ankle problems, playing in only 91 of 164 regular season games the past two seasons. He also missed last year’s entire playoff run.
As we look forward to the 2014-15 season, Brook Lopez’s health is a huge question mark for Brooklyn. This sparks a slew of uncertainties surrounding the 26-year-old big man, as we peek into his, and the Nets’, near future.
Will Lopez’s injury woes continue for the rest of his career?
Obviously, this is impossible to accurately predict; every player responds to injuries differently. However, taking size, history, type of injury, and personal healing ability into account, we can at least take an educated guess.
All of these big guys had their promising careers derailed by injuries–specifically leg, knee, ankle, and foot problems. It’s more common than one would think.
That’s why Joel Embiid fell in the draft; the mere chance that he might end up like one of the prominent names mentioned above scared owners and GMs.
Additionally, Lopez hasn’t shown any inclination for healing quickly. He has re-injured his foot once and his ankle twice over the past three seasons.
And every time he’s gotten hurt, Lopez has missed significant time. Even when he returns, he’ll reportedly be on a minutes limit, which will squander his effectiveness.
With all this information, we can conclude that … yes. Odds are, Brook Lopez will most likely continue to have injury problems.
Which leads us to our next question: If so, should Brooklyn hold onto Lopez? And if the answer is “no,” then …
What type of value could the Nets get for Brook Lopez on the trade market, and who would be interested?
The situation this reminds me the most of is Andrew Bogut’s time in Milwaukee. Bogut showed flashes of his No. 1 overall pick potential whenever he was healthy, even leading the Bucks into the playoffs in both the 2006 and 2010 seasons.
However, Milwaukee always grappled with whether or not to invest in Bogut long-term, or get value for him while they could. Ultimately, in 2012, they decided to trade Andrew Bogut to Golden State in exchange for Monta Ellis.
For the Bucks, the deal made sense because everyone knew they were in rebuilding mode. For the Warriors, the swap worked because they desperately coveted a defensive big to help them make the playoffs.
Plus, there was no need to keep Ellis with Stephen Curry emerging.
I imagine, if Brook Lopez were to be put on the trading block, Brooklyn would attract interest from a team in the same situation as Golden State in 2012. In other words, a team with cap space who’s a center away from making the postseason.
The issue is that Nets management and ownership don’t see their team as a “seller” right now, meaning Lopez won’t go on the block just yet (although the Nets played well without him last year). With the recent acquisitions of Jarrett Jack, Markel Brown, Bojan Bogdonavic, and Sergey Karasev, it appears that Brooklyn’s trying to get younger while keeping the mostly older core of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Lopez intact, like the San Antonio Spurs have been able to do the past seven years without blowing up the roster.
Unfortunately, in the event that Lopez’s career is cut short by ongoing, multiple injuries, this means Brooklyn would lose him for nothing.
Like the Milwaukee Bucks a few years ago, this is a difficult decision the Nets will have to eventually make.