When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Brook Lopez, it was widely seen less for what Lopez brought to the table, and more for all of the cap space the Lakers would be creating by dumping Timofey Mozgov’s salary, or for the team giving up D’Angelo Russell.
The latter two things are legitimate points of analysis, but Lopez is a lot more than his (still valuable) expiring contract. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are happy to remind anyone listening that Lopez made 134 3-pointers last season, and he’s also a legit seven-footer who can protect the rim on defense and a go-to option in the post on offense.
That specific blend of skills is rare, and the Lakers have missed all of them during their three preseason losses so far.
Lopez looks set to return Sunday when Los Angeles takes on the Sacramento Kings in Las Vegas, and it sounds like his rookie point guard Lonzo Ball is excited to have him back in the lineup, via Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters:
Lonzo Ball on Brook Lopez's return: "He’s one of the best big men in the league…I’m excited to see what he's going to do out there."
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) October 6, 2017
While that might sound like hyperbole, Ball isn’t wrong. Lopez is not only the most proven and NBA-ready player on the Lakers’ roster but between his ability to shoot and play in the post while still defending the rim, he is literally one of the most talented big men in the league even if that’s almost as much of a reflection on the way the league has gone away from players like Lopez as it is a commentary on Lopez’s ability.
Still, Lopez still almost unquestionably going to be either the first or second-most important player on the Lakers’ roster this season, depending on how quickly Ball adjusts to the NBA.
And even if he is just around for a year while the Lakers’ wait for bigger fish in free agency, Lopez will help the team this year by serving as a security blanket Ball, Brandon Ingram, and the rest of the Lakers’ young roster. For a team that’s been sorely looking for veteran leaders as it rebuilds, the fact that Lopez is a solid presence in the locker room is just a cherry on top as the organization continues to take baby steps back towards contention.