Memorial Day marks the first of our daily Nets player-by-player breakdown, with an emphasis on what’s to come for next season. We start things off with Brook Lopez.
BROOK LOPEZ, CENTER
Year in review: Lopez’s season lasted just 17 games because of a fractured fifth metatarsal of his right foot. Lopez suffered the injury on Dec. 20 in Philadelphia, and underwent surgery to repair that injury on Jan. 4. He then had left ankle surgery on March 3 to repair a torn tendon and tighten lateral ligaments. Lopez also had a second procedure on Jan. 4, called a first metatarsal osteotomy, in which another bone was repositioned in his foot to unload and protect the injured area.
Before any of that, however, Lopez was having a solid season from a personal standpoint, averaging 20.7 points on 56.3 percent shooting with a 25.50 Player Efficiency Rating. On defense, he was holding opponents to just 40.3 percent shooting at the rim. The Nets, though, were just 9-17 at the time Lopez’s season ended.
Role moving forward: Good question. First, he has to get healthy. The Nets believe Lopez will eventually resume basketball activities and be ready for training camp. The Nets ran their offense through Lopez in the post, but were forced to abandon that strategy and go small. As a result, they turned their season around. If Lopez stays in Brooklyn, he may need to change his style of play, something he’s open to doing, although it could prove difficult. Granted, Lopez is a good shooter, which should help ease the transition. Lopez is so talented, but could still improve on his rebounding, though it’s something you can live with given that he does so many things so well.
Contract status: Lopez is owed $32.4 million over the next two seasons. Lopez holds a $16.7 million player option for 2015-16.
What they’re saying:
“If you put Brook at center and the other four guys around him, you can play the same way [we were playing]. I think he’ll fit in fine. I think talking to the doctor this time they’ve got it right.” -- Nets GM Billy King on Lopez adapting to the team’s new system and if he’s going to be healthy this time around.
Should they bring him back? Ultimately, yes. The Nets could elect to see what Lopez can fetch in a trade. But given his injury history -- he also fractured the same fifth metatarsal in December 2011, and later had a screw replaced in it last offseason -- it’s unlikely Brooklyn would get enough in return to justify moving its franchise center. If Lopez is healthy, he’s still a great asset moving forward. If not, the Nets may have a difficult time replacing him depending on whether Kevin Garnett decides to keep playing or retire.