The Brooklyn Nets have reportedly put their Big Three of Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, and Joe Johnson on the trading block and have seen some interest in Lopez. The Oklahoma City Thunder have been rumored as a potential destination for the center and at least one other team is apparently tossing its hat into the ring.
Per ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Denver Nuggets are interested in Lopez. Stein says that so far, Denver has offered a package including center JaVale McGee and J.J. Hickson, but that the Nets have refused.
Lopez, per several reports, could even be off the market entirely. But as the team continues to sink (the Nets are currently 18-28 after a 3-12 January), if they find the right deal, it’s difficult to imagine that a trade would be entirely out of the question.
Denver’s interest in Lopez (or any quality center, for that matter) is understandable. The team recently dealt away starting center Timofey Mozgov to the Cleveland Cavaliers, leaving a hole in the middle as they are currently starting rookie Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic could develop into a quality center, but still needs some time to improve. In the meantime, the Nuggets could use a veteran in the middle and Lopez would fit that bill.
On the surface, Denver’s offer was a modest one. Neither Hickson nor McGee are a starter and, if those were truly the players offered, the Nuggets were hoping to significantly upgrade one of their weakest positions for, essentially, a pair of role players. McGee had a decent amount of upside a few years ago in Washington, but now at 27 years old, his potential is waning. Injuries, too, have likely limited his marketability. Prior to this season, he missed large chunks of three of his six years in the league, and so far in 2014-15, has played only 15 games. While Hickson has started for a few teams in the past (including the Nuggets last season), he also has been in a reserve role this year.
Further fueling the Nets’ refusal is likely what Lopez has done lately. In his last game on Friday, the center had a monster 35-point, 12-rebound effort against the Toronto Raptors. Just two nights prior to that, he had 18 points and seven rebounds against the Atlanta Hawks and last week, he contributed 22 points, six rebounds, and six blocks in a win against the Kings. Lopez has had some ups and downs this year, but recently, is proving he’s still capable of big nights. Brooklyn may be willing to trade him, but it won’t be merely to dump salary.
A big driver here could be what the Nets do as a team over the next week or so. It’s worth noting that despite his play lately, Brooklyn has still come up short in the win column. His huge game on Friday, for example, didn’t prevent the team from losing 127-122 to the Raptors. More losses could soften the team’s stance on dealing him.
Brooklyn has passed on this offer, but more will likely continue to come — that’s especially true if Lopez posts more big games. It will be interesting to see if they have a chance of heart as the trade deadline nears if they continue to fall from contention.