Having played all 82 games each of his first three seasons in the league, few could have predicted such an injury plagued year for Brook Lopez, who played in only five contests for New Jersey due to a myriad of foot and ankle problems. However, there are few big men who can score like Lopez, meaning that plenty of teams will be calling about the restricted free agent center.
In his last fully healthy season, Lopez averaged 20.4 points, six rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Though he is far from the most physical five available, his ability to score both in the post and step outside and hit perimeter jump shots makes him an extremely valuable commodity.
He can lure opposing big men outside of the paint, opening up driving lanes for wing players, and also be a serious threat in pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop plays with his shooting. He is also a solid free throw shooter, meaning opponents simply cannot hack him whenever he touches the ball.
Scoring centers are extremely rare in today's NBA, especially ones that can score from more than 10-feet out, meaning there will be a lot of inquiries about Lopez's availability as long as he is fully healed. However, heading into such a tumultuous offseason due to Deron Williams' free agency and the team's move to Brooklyn, expect the Nets to lock up the 24-year-old early in the summer.
Lopez is the closest thing the Nets have to a second star behind Williams, and the point guard-center tandem proved to be fairly effective when the two played together. Even if he is only used as part of a future trade package, the Nets need Lopez on the team to convince Williams to stay. He obviously needs to be more aggressive on the glass and not be pushed around on the block, but a quality team could easily be built around a core of Lopez and Williams.
Brooklyn has enough cap room to retain Lopez, and barring a max-contract offer the team should do so. A healthy Brook Lopez is as good of an offensive threat as any, and the team needs to retain a recognizable face as they change locations.
Brook Lopez will be playing for Brooklyn next season, whether the team's other star will be is another question entirely.