NBA Trade Rumors: Recent Buzz Shows Nets Continue to Undervalue Brook Lopez

Mike MoraitisAnalyst IJanuary 24, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 13:  Brook Lopez #11 of the Brooklyn Nets comes out during intros prior to the game against the Indiana Pacers at the Barclays Center on January 13, 2013 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Anytime the Brooklyn Nets are linked to possible trade discussions involving Los Angeles Lakers star Dwight Howard, Brook Lopez's name is logically thrown into the mix as the centerpiece of any deal.

While realistically it would take Lopez to complete such a deal, clearly he is one of the more underappreciated players in the NBA considering the Nets seem ready and willing to trade him away for D12 any chance they get.

A report from ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein gave details about the Lakers' potential desire to trade their All-Star center, and of course the Nets were included in the rumor:

The Brooklyn Nets are believed to still strongly intrigue Howard as a future destination after the Nets' long-running attempts to trade for him last season. But after re-signing Deron Williams and Brook Lopez last summer and taking on more than $300 million in long-term salary commitments, Brooklyn can only acquire Howard via trade now, which would likely require an additional team (or teams) to join in even if the Lakers were amenable.

To confirm that the Nets are interested in acquiring Howard with the help of Lopez, RealGM's Jarrod Rudolph spilled the beans on a deal Brooklyn was working on that would have involved Howard, Lopez and Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love:

According to sources, King was planning to contact the Minnesota Timberwolves in order to gauge their interest in a three-team trade that would send Kevin Love to the Lakers, Brook Lopez to the Timberwolves and Dwight Howard to the Nets. Other small pieces would need to be included, but the proposed trade was thought to be intriguing enough to start conversations in the Lakers front office that would force them to deal with Howard earlier than planned.

That idea, however, was shelved when Love was sidelined 8-10 weeks with a broken hand. The Nets believed the Lakers would be interested in Love, but not an injured Love, even if they’re facing missing the playoffs, according to sources.

Even despite the failure in that idea, the Nets general manager isn't done with the whole D12 trade saga yet, also per Rudolph of RealGM:

King will still look around for an attractive piece for the Lakers, but won’t make getting Howard as big a priority as last season, according to sources. But he will continue to watch the Lakers and explore intriguing trade options, sources said.

The most puzzling thing in all of this is Brooklyn's constant desire to trade away one of its best players. Lopez is arguably the best center in the Eastern Conference and is in the discussion as one of the best big men in the entire league.

Lopez leads all centers in points per game (18.6) and scoring per 48 minutes (30.4), proving he is the best scoring center in the NBA. While his rebounding needs some work (7.4 per game), the notion that Lopez is not a good defender is dispelled by his 2.1 blocks per game, which is good enough for fourth among centers.

Granted, Lopez might not be a better all-around player than Howard is, but the 24-year-old still has plenty of room to grow as he gains more experience and teaching.

Another quality Lopez has is the fact that he keeps quiet on a daily basis, never once complaining about the constant speculation that he'll be shipped off for D12, or anyone else for that matter. Lopez keeps going to work everyday, striving to improve his game, all the while keeping his mouth shut.

Howard, on the other hand, is a serial complainer and all it takes is one bad game from the All-Star center to see that. An example of such can be seen in the video below, which happened during an interview after the Lakers loss to the Chicago Bulls on Monday.

Not only is Howard's behavior annoying to fans and coaches alike, it can also cause major distractions and turmoil in the locker room. That won't help any team's chemistry—especially the Nets should they acquire D12 for Lopez.

Lopez is often overshadowed by stars like Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, but it's clear that Lopez is in fact the most important player on this team. After all, he is the Nets leading scorer.

In late November, Lopez went down to injury and the Nets center was forced to miss seven games. In that span, the Nets went 2-5 without Lopez, including a five-game losing streak. Those two wins came against the Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors.

When the Nets are struggling offensively, coach P.J. Carlesimo can count on Lopez to make something happen in the paint. Lopez's offensive prowess is difficult for any NBA defender to contain, and that's a quality Brooklyn sorely misses when Lopez is out.

Few in the NBA, if any, can do what Lopez does on a NBA court night in and night out. He is such a vital piece to what the Nets have done so far this season and despite Howard's skill, it's still mind-boggling how underappreciated Lopez is whenever the "Dwightmare" scenario rears its ugly head.

Nets fans and their management may think trading for Howard is what's best for the championship hopes of this organization, but that is nowhere near a certainty. Howard's behavior and overall effort, as well as his health, are all question marks, and you simply don't know what to expect from him anymore.

Lopez has proved to be the polar opposite, and it's that type of consistency that makes him an All-Star caliber player this season. Those qualities are priceless, and the Nets should start looking at them as such.