Brook Lopez’s most recent campaign with the Milwaukee Bucks ended in a disappointing first-round playoff elimination at the hands of the Miami Heat
That said, the unfortunate way the year ended didn’t do much to dim Lopez’s shine. Heading into unrestricted free agency, Lopez put up 15.9 points per game on 53.1 percent shooting from the field and 37.4 percent shooting from three.
More importantly, Lopez also averaged 6.7 rebounds per game and 2.5 blocks per outing en route to becoming of the league’s more formidable defensive presences.
He ultimately came in second in Defensive Player of the Year voting behind the Memphis Grizzlies’ Jaren Jackson Jr.
Because of how much he raised his stock throughout the 2022-23 NBA season, the question now is how Lopez will ultimately cash in. All indications point to there being three frontrunners to steal him away from the Bucks.
The first is his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite a strong showing with them in 2017-18 where he was often their second-best player, the team opted not to re-sign him.
In the aftermath, during an interview on “The Lowe Post” podcast, Lopez admitted he was surprised by how his time in purple and gold concluded.
“I was a little surprised (they didn’t come after me harder),” he said.
“It just didn’t end up working out. It kind of went in one direction pretty quickly. From that point, I was looking at other options.”
That said, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, unlike the broken relationship between L.A. and Julius Randle, there isn’t any bad blood between Lopez and the Lakers.
“The bridge isn’t burned with Brook Lopez after his rough 2017-18 season in L.A., but the fact of the matter is that the Lakers aren’t going to get him for the non-taxpayer midlevel exception (projected to be about $12.2 million),” he wrote. “Lopez has earned more than that.”
If Lopez isn’t willing to accept less money to come play for the Lakers (which he’d have to, given their other financial obligations), the Houston Rockets are a squad to keep an eye on.
According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Lopez is a “high-ranking” target for the organization. It’s easy to see why. The 35-year-old’s offensive versatility, defensive presence and veteran leadership would be a perfect fit under new head coach Ime Udoka.
Finally, don’t sleep on the Dallas Mavericks. The team obviously needs to make some changes after missing the playoffs in 2022-23. And while all the hoopla so far has been around whether Kyrie Irving will or won’t re-sign, there is no denying that Lopez would be an excellent fit on this roster.
Not only does he provide an additional offensive threat to distract from Luka Doncic and (maybe) Irving, but he will also provide some much-needed defense to a squad that had none last year.
The big question here, as is the case with L.A., is how the Mavs would make the financial situation work.
All of that being said, in a conversation with Mike Scotto of HoopsHype, Lopez said he loved Milwaukee.
“I love it here,” Lopez remarked.
“I’m so thankful for the opportunity the Bucks gave me five years ago to come here and be a part of something special. We’ve had a great time. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”
The photos speak for themselves. https://t.co/dAMWrEWxZM
— Game 7 (@game7__) June 2, 2023
If the Bucks ultimately come with a fair offer, there is a better than not chance that Lopez will just stay put.
But with Khris Middleton’s free agency to deal with in addition to Lopez’s, it also wouldn’t be that shocking to see ownership balk at the prospect of handing out multiple big deals.
Where will Lopez ultimately be playing come the start of the 2023-24 NBA season? Time will tell.