Brook Lopez to Brooklyn Nets: Winners and Losers of NBA's Latest Free-Agent Deal
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Lopez has agreed to a four-year, $61 million deal to remain with the Nets as they prepare for their upcoming move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn:
Brooklyn has reached agreement on a 4-year, $61 million max deal with Brook Lopez, league source tells Y! Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 11, 2012
The deal makes the Stanford grad and four-year NBA veteran the fourth player to garner a max contract this summer, joining Roy Hibbert, who will stay with the Indiana Pacers for four years and $58 million, Eric Gordon, who has a similar offer on the table from the Phoenix Suns but is expected to be retained by the New Orleans Hornets and Nets teammate Deron Williams, who re-upped for five years and nearly $99 million.
But as far as Lopez's new pact is concerned, who are the big winners? And who are the biggest losers?
Winner: Brook Lopez
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The biggest winner has to be Brook, who will now make more per season than he did during the first four years of his NBA career combined. As a result of his $61 million pact, Lopez can now count himself among New York City's richest residents under the age of 25.
Of course, the fact that he can settle down in the Big Apple is a blessing in itself. The big fella spent four years toiling on a dreadful team while surrounded by New Jersey's finest smoke stacks and industrial waste dumps.
Now, he gets to suit up for an Eastern Conference contender—alongside Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and MarShon Brooks—in the brand spankin' new Barclays Center in the hipster-gentrified borough of Brooklyn.
And, he has enough money to BUY ALL THE COMIC BOOKS.
Loser: Dwight Howard
Photo Credit: Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
With his bank account newly fattened and his team set for a fresh start in a trendy locale, Lopez has become the envy of a host of his peers, not the least of who is Dwight Howard.
Lopez's extension all but guarantees that Superman's dreams of playing with D-Will in the NBA's newest Metropolis won't be realized. Lopez had been rumored to be the centerpiece of any deal between the Nets and the Orlando Magic, but he won't be eligible for inclusion in any trades until January 15 at the earliest.
Of course, with the Dwightmare as prolonged and unpredictable as it already is, it's entirely possible that the All-Star center could still have his wish granted at some point this coming season.
And, frankly, it'll have to be. Lopez's deal will likely put the Nets' payroll well over the $70.3 million luxury tax threshold. That makes a blockbuster trade the only means by which Brooklyn could possibly acquire Dwight, who's set to hit free agency after the 2012-13 season.
Winner: The Brooklyn Nets
"In Soviet Russia, contract sign YOU!"
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Mikhail Prokhorov can express his discontent however he pleases—go horseback riding with a shirtless Vladimir Putin, torture James Bond, adorn sharks' heads with frickin' laser beams—but in the end, his Nets could've done far worse.
For their troubles, the Nets will wind up with a skilled, seven-foot center who's capable of pouring in 20 points a game on a team that already features a six-time All-Star on the wing (Iso-Joe), a three-time All-Star at the point guard who can score and distribute with equal lethality (D-Will) and another former All-Star (Crash) whose nickname derives from his outstanding heart and hustle on both ends of the floor.
Throw in MarShon Brooks—a promising, young shooting guard—and Brooklyn has the makings of a top-four team in the Eastern Conference, even if GM Billy King fills out the rest of the roster with the daily trash catch from the Hudson River.
Loser: The Nets
Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun/AP
There is reason for concern with Lopez though. For one, his rebounding percentage—his share of all rebounds gathered during his time on the floor—has dipped considerably each season, from 15.8 percent as a rookie all the way to 7.7 percent this past season.
A season in which, by the way, he played five out of a possible 66 games on account of a broken foot. The fact that the Nets gave him so much money would seem to suggest that his foot is "fine" now, though Bill Walton and Yao Ming might have some insight into how issues of that sort can impact the career of a seven-footer.
A seven-footer who, again, is not a particularly good rebounder...and is still set to make $61 MILLION OVER THE NEXT FOUR YEARS!
You know who's an awesome rebounder? Dwight Howard! But again, the Nets probably can't nab him anymore precisely because Lopez is on board.
Winner: Kris Humphries
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As long as the Nets need someone to crash the boards next to Lopez, they might as well do what they can to bring Kris Humphries to Brooklyn along with the rest of the gang.
Crack all the jokes you want about the once-and-former Mr. Kim Kardashian, but Humphries is a much better basketball player than people give him credit for. The Minnesota native is a solid 6'9" and 235 pounds with the ability to bang bodies in the paint, compete on the boards and hit the occasional mid-range jumper.
And, much to his credit, Humphries averaged a double-double during each of his last two seasons in New Jersey.
The Nets are fully aware of Humphries' qualifications and, as such, should do whatever they can to keep him in the fold.
Whether or not that means Humphries is retained on another one-year pact remains to be seen, though he'd at least get a taste of the playoffs this time around.
Loser: Robin Lopez
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I'm sure Robin Lopez is happy for his twin brother—happy to see that the man with whom he grew up is being compensated so handsomely for his services.
Robin, who's spent his four years with the Phoenix Suns, might even take heart from the thought that teams will want to lavish him with cash because he's as close to a carbon copy of Brook as there is on earth.
But in all likelihood, Robin isn't going to break the bank like Brook is. Seven feet tall though he may be, Robin has never been a double-digit scorer nor a particularly prolific rebounder, and he spent the entire 2011-12 season as a reserve for the Suns.
Then again, there are surely some teams out there (e.g. the Portland Trail Blazers) that'd be willing to overpay considerably for a dude who's more-or-less T.A.T.A. (Tall and That's All).
Ultimately, though, Robin can grow his hair out all he wants, but he'll probably always be "only" the second-best (and second-highest paid) basketball player in his own family.
Winner: The Rest of the Eastern Conference
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That gust of wind you just felt was the collective sigh of relief released by everyone in the Eastern Conference outside of Brooklyn once news of the Nets' re-signing of Brook Lopez came across the wire.
To be sure, the Beasts of the East (i.e. the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics, the Chicago Bulls with a healthy Derrick Rose) won't simply be able to step over the Nets as easily as they could've and did in recent years. They'll still have to concern themselves with a formidable team built around three former All-Stars and a fourth in Lopez, with the potential to join them in that regard.
But, again, there's no escaping the fantasy of a team in Brooklyn with Dwight Howard in the middle. Putting the best center on the planet between an elite point guard and an overpaid-but-effective perimeter scorer would've thrust the Nets into the center of the championship conversation, much more so than they were during their run in the early 2000s with Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Richard Jefferson, Kerry Kittles and (of course) Brian Scalabrine.
With Lopez, the Nets will probably be good enough to get a word in edgewise, but they will have to wait their turn behind the defending champs and the C's before they can start planning any victory parades through Hipsterville, USA.
Loser: The Collective Bargaining Agreement
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Remember last summer when the NBA owners locked out the players and whined about eliminating bad contracts and restricting players' salaries?
So much for that, it seems. Lopez is just the latest player this summer to garner the sort of payday that'd make Rod Tidwell scream his lungs out.
Aside from Lopez—a broken-footed seven-footer—making $61 million, there's Roy Hibbert, a 7'2" semi-stiff, re-signing for $58 million; Eric Gordon, a gifted guard with knee problems, going for the same, Jeremy Lin parlaying a 26-game stint with the New York Knicks into a $30 million deal and Omer Asik cashing in for $25 million after spending two seasons as a backup center with the Chicago Bulls.
Not that there's anything wrong with players getting paid. If there are GMs and owners willing to sign off on these ludicrous contracts, then so be it.
But next time the NBA commissioner—be it David Stern or some other career politician—tries to swindle the players for more of their share, they need only retort with the fact that the owners won big in 2011 and still couldn't help themselves when push came to shove.
Winner(s): The Los Angeles Lakers And/or the Houston Rockets
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These two teams have long had eyes for Howard and, with the Nets presumably out of the picture, would appear to be the frontrunners in the race to take him off Orlando's hands. The Lakers have looked like the most logical landing spot for Howard for some time, with a swap for All-Star center Andrew Bynum as the best possible outcome for the Magic at this point.
The Rockets, meanwhile, have been positioning themselves for a serious run at Dwight since before the 2012 draft, scooping up valuable picks and cheap pieces with which to satisfy the Magic's desire to rebuild around young talent and rid themselves of onerous assets in the process.
Both teams also sport storied traditions of big men—George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal for the Lakers; Elvin Hayes, Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming for the Rockets—into which Howard would slide as a natural torchbearer.
Neither team can seemingly do enough on its own to convince the Magic to relinquish Dwight, however. The Lakers have a star big man to offer, but they can't trade away any more of their first-round picks and don't have the sort of financial flexibility needed to take back salary. The Rockets have the latter two at their disposal, but not the former.
The end result may well be a three-team trade in which Dwight goes to LA, Bynum goes to Houston and a package of perks land in Orlando. Or a one-to-one trade between the Magic and the Lakers or the Rockets. Or perhaps some other complicated arrangement involving another team.
Or, perhaps the Magic miraculously find a way to keep Dwight long-term.
In any case, the Nets likely will not be involved, thanks in no small part to Brook Lopez.
Loser: The Portland Trail Blazers
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Then again, at least the Nets can count on having a solid seven-footer in their lineup, assuming Lopez's foot problems don't persist.
The same can't quite be said for the Portland Trail Blazers, who, along with the Charlotte Bobcats, were prepared to sign Lopez to a four-year max offer sheet, but were ultimately rebuffed when Brooklyn opted to take care of its own.
This after the Blazers threw $58 million at Roy Hibbert, only to see the Pacers match it.
It's fitting—albeit in a tragic way—that a franchise that's had such horrible luck with big men (e.g. Bill Walton, LaRue Martin, Sam Bowie, Greg Oden) can't seem to buy one, even when it tries its darndest.
Instead, it'll likely be up to 2006 draftee Joel Freeland and 2012 lottery pick Meyers Leonard to fill the void in the middle in PDX, where Lopez might've enjoyed the company of Pacific Northwestern hipsters rather than those of the East Coast big-city variety.
At least LaMarcus Aldridge will still be around to enjoy the local fare of awkward feminist encounters.