Brook Lopez Trade: How Would He Fit on the Thunder?


It is pretty well understood that the Oklahoma City Thunder have one of the most talented rosters in the NBA. On Thursday night, Sam Presti set about trying to remove all argument.

As of early Friday morning, the Thunder were deeply engaged in trade talks with the Brooklyn Nets to acquire Brook Lopez in exchange for Jeremy Lamb and Kendrick Perkins (edit: as of 12:30 PM CT, talks have supposedly cooled down). So why are the Thunder looking to acquire a player such as Lopez?

To date, the Thunder have exhibited a stagnant offense and a defense that seems increasingly more leaky every game. A high-caliber shot in the arm  like Lopez may be exactly what Oklahoma City needs.

Lopez is an elite back to the basket player, who is fully capable of running the floor, and is underrated as a rim protector (as evidenced by these tweets from Vantage Sport’s Andrew Schlect):

The question then becomes, if OKC does acquire Lopez what are the implications for the Thunder?

Brook Lopez and the Offense

This is where the fit ranges from somewhat awkward to potentially devastating if everything clicks. The Thunder are essentially void of a low post game. Both Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams have demonstrated the ability to finish on pick and rolls but there is really no designed post play. Lopez changes all of that.

Per, Lopez has never shot fewer than 98% of his shots from inside the arc in a single season. Furthermore, nearly 62% of his shots occur within 10 feet of the basket. Lopez is shooting a sizzling 55% from that distance, a devastatingly-effective number. This is a very classic back to the basket style playmaker that the Thunder have never had. As playoff basketball sets in and points become harder to come by, having that nearly automatic presence in the paint is HUGE.

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  • The issue lies in how the Thunder currently run their offense. Oklahoma City has always been reliant on getting to the rim and, consequently, the free throw line. Lopez could potentially further clog an already crowded lane. It would be a little unreasonable to expect Lopez to suddenly become a perimeter post (a la Kevin Love) so the Thunder would need to tweak the offense to facilitate a player with Lopez’s skill set.

    A good source of inspiration could be Memphis’ style of offense. The Grizzlies love to utilize Marc Gasol as a passer in the high post, letting Tony Allen and Mike Conley flash free to the bucket when the defense sucks in to defend Gasol. A good example of this occurs here:

    Brook Lopez isn’t nearly the pure passer that Gasol is but the impact could largely be the same. A defense has never had to account for a post presence the likes of Lopez in OKC. Using this asset to their advantage stands to not only benefit Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but also make the Thunder the most dangerous offense in the NBA,

    Brook Lopez and the Defense

    Lopez is a polarizing figure on defense. Obviously any 7-footer is going to be a somewhat capable rim protector by virtue of size alone. Past that, however, Lopez leaves a lot to be desired. He’s never been a great rebounder, only eclipsing five defensive rebounds/game once in his seven seasons and although he averages a healthy number of blocks (1.9 per game for his career), the Nets have been one of the worst defensive teams at the rim during his tenure in Brooklyn.

    As for the Thunder, they would be dealing their best “eye-test” defender in Kendrick Perkins. While Perk hasn’t ever piled up the defensive stats, most people that watch the NBA know that Perk is one of the best at using body control and balance to knock his opponent off the block and get them out of their comfort zone. Would losing a defender like Perk in exchange for a minus defender like Lopez irreversibly harm the Thunder?

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    All things considered, probably not. For his first five or so years in Brooklyn, the Nets did everything they could to mask Lopez’s deficiencies with a rim protecting power forward. However, the Nets didn’t exactly provide themselves with the best options, slopping together a conglomeration of Kris Humphries, Mirza Teletovic, Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. None of these are even remotely good at rim protection, which likely exacerbated Lopez’s defensive woes.

    Meanwhile, Oklahoma City boasts arguably the pre-eminent shot blocker in the NBA (Serge Ibaka) along with a bevy of defensive-minded bigs off the bench (Nick Collison, Perry Jones to a degree, and Steven Adams). Any one of these guys would be more than capable of rotating alongside Lopez to handle any problematic post matchups.

    The defensive rebounding lapses are likely compensated for by OKC’s perimeter guys. Andre Roberson and Russell Westbrook are both fully capable of cleaning up on the boards, a luxury that most teams don’t have at the guard position. The defense might regress slightly but all indications are that the Thunder’s current personnel are more than capable of covering for any of Lopez’ shortcomings.


    Brook Lopez would be an incredible asset for the Thunder. He adds a needed offensive interior piece and his defensive “woes” are largely overstated. It would also allow the Thunder to move Steven Adams back to the bench, making the Thunder’s reserve unit (that seemed problematic just two weeks ago) one of the better groups in the NBA. Naturally, all of this hinges upon Brooklyn’s willingness to move Lopez (which, for the time being, has somewhat stalled) but if the opportunity is present the Thunder should run, not walk, to take it.

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