Continuity is of utmost importance in the NBA. Well, at least as long as there’s high-level upside to keeping a team’s nucleus intact. Otherwise? Staying the course could be as debilitating as unexpectedly veering off of it.
Make no mistake: Lopez and Young are valuable players. The Nets went 17-13 after trading Kevin Garnett to the Minnesota Timberwolves to form a starting frontcourt of Young and Lopez, rebounding from a poor start to the season to earn a playoff berth and scare the Atlanta Hawks in the first round.
But can Brooklyn really win big with an interior tandem of Young and Lopez? Fortunately for Lionel Hollins’ team, the impending salary cap boom in advance of both 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 might mean it won’t have to find out. The Nets could have at least $30 million of cap room next summer despite Deron Williams likely opting in to the final season of his contractual albatross. Such are the fruits of an expected $90 million salary cap.
Still, one wonders if a complete tear-down would be a better approach to future contention for Brooklyn than retaining pricey, wholly unspectacular core pieces. Keeping Lopez – not a personal favorite of ours, by the way – at least makes sense in a vacuum. He’s a proven interior scorer, and kept longstanding health concerns at bay last season by playing 72 games. Yet Lopez’s limitations, especially defensively, make him an awkward puzzle piece upfront, one who would be best-served playing alongside a Serge Ibaka-style rim-protector and floor-spacer.
Those guys don’t exactly grow on trees, of course, and the Nets’ barren stable of future first-round draft picks makes it unlikely they’ll ever find one organically. But Young certainly isn’t it, and inking him to a four-year deal worth well over $10 million annually is a stretch no matter who he’s paired with in the frontcourt. The 27-year-old has obvious two-way worth and certainly played better for Brooklyn late last season than he did with the Minnesota Timberwolves in its early going, yet still seems most well suited to a bench role under ideal an circumstance.
And that’s exactly the Nets’ problem: They won’t find it for many years running. Would letting both big men walk help Brooklyn do so? There’s no way to tell for sure. What’s obvious, though, is that this franchise is still thinking short-term as opposed to long, a strategy that is most likely to yield nothing better than mediocrity.
[Via Marc Stein]