Deron Williams was unquestionably the star of the Nets’ Game 4 win over the Hawks on Monday, but Brook Lopez was just as important to his team’s winning effort.
Lopez finished with 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting, while grabbing 10 rebounds and protecting the rim with four blocked shots.
The performance was far from an aberration; Lopez has been on a tear to end the regular season, and his dominant inside presence has continued to be a factor against the East’s top-seeded team in the playoffs.
Lopez will have a choice to make this summer. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Nets have to hope it’s one that allows him to remain in Brooklyn — and not only for next season.
One opposing general manager, who said the prevailing thinking around the league is Lopez stays put and gets a max deal, may have summed it up best.
“If he walks, where are they going? They don’t have draft picks. They’re flip-flopping their pick [with Atlanta]. They’re getting the 29th instead of the 15th. For their future, I don’t see how they can lose him,” the GM said. “If Brook wants to stay there, he should be able to get whatever he wants.” …
Lopez has options. He can opt out and stay with the Nets on a five-year deal — other teams can offer four — and that would ease any self-worry about foot issues resurfacing. Or with all the TV money set to flood the market after next season, Lopez could sign a two-year deal with a player option for the second year. It makes no sense not to opt out.
Lopez has a player option for $16.7 million for next season, but can certainly make more in guaranteed money by signing a longer-term deal, either in Brooklyn or somewhere else.
The point, here, is that Lopez seemingly has all the leverage. The Nets need to keep their All-Star caliber talent in place if they hope to compete, because there is no help coming in the form of young talent through the draft for the next several seasons. Brooklyn might like to convince Lopez to take the two-year route, just to maintain some semblance of future cap flexibility. But what’s more important is securing his services for what appears likely to be the prime of his career.