Heading into draft night, the Brooklyn Nets made a big move by trading Brook Lopez to the Los Angeles Lakers along with one of their first round draft picks, getting Timofey Mozgov and D’Angelo Russell in return. What does this mean for the team and for Jeremy Lin?
The way I see it, this is the Nets getting insurance in case Lin opts out of his deal. He makes $12 million this season, and if he stays healthy and puts up the kind of numbers he can when he’s a starting point guard, the $12.1 million he has in player option form for 2018-2019 might not be that much. Getting Russell, who’ll make $5.5 million this season and is under a team option of $7.01 million for 2018-2019, not to mention easier to control for years to come if the Nets like what they see, gives the Nets a point guard to count on in case Lin bolts in the summer of 2018.
This also gives the Nets a very interesting backcourt, and maybe something to be excited about. Yes, Lopez has been a big part of this team for the last few years, through the good times and the bad; and yes, there’s nothing thrilling about trading for Mozgov and his bad contract. However, Lopez wasn’t taking the Nets to a championship, there wasn’t a whole lot of demand for him. This way, the Nets got Russell, who is better (probably) than what the Nets would have gotten for the 27th overall pick. Mozgov? If he can give the Nets 20 minutes a night without getting injured, adding him won’t seem so bad when people look back at the end of the season.
Adjusting inside the new backcourt might take some time. Russell is a better shooter than his numbers suggest, has good vision, and might be able to get more out of himself in a new situation. He can score, he can pass. He isn’t incredibly mobile, and seems almost lazy on defense sometimes. Maybe it’s a matter of focus and being under the right coach and right situation. He has a terrific backcourt partner in Lin. An intelligent one, and also gives the Nets a legitimate second ball handler, something they didn’t have last season. This gives Atkinson more options in the offense he struggled to figure out last season. Less predictable for sure, more versatile as well.
How does this translate into wins? There are other moving parts for Brooklyn, and it’ll be interesting to see who they take at number 22. Rumors suggest they’ll be going for a big man. They’d love Edrice Adebayo to fall into their hands, but he’s likely to go a bit earlier. Other names that might end up in black and white are Anzejs Pasecniks, who might be a poor man’s Porzingis, and maybe Tony Bradley out of North Carolina, although he’s probably a bit of an old-school big man, something the Nets aren’t that fond of.