NBA Free Agency is quickly approaching, and for the New Orleans Pelicans, this go around will be all about bolstering their team around their nucleus of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, and Trey Murphy III.
One of the names headlining this 2023 NBA Free Agency Class is Brook Lopez – a member of the 2023 All-Defensive First Team. Despite turning 35 in April, Lopez is fresh off of one of the best seasons of his career, averaging 15.9 PPG and 2.5 BPG while shooting 37.4% from three and finishing second in Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) voting behind Jaren Jackson Jr.
So, should the Pelicans pursue him this offseason?
Like we did with our Dillon Brooks post, we won’t dig too deep into the salary cap optics of the transaction. To get Lopez, New Orleans is likely going to have to move off some money (preferably Jonas Valanciunas) and find a way to outbid the Milwaukee Bucks (both parties have a mutual interest in bringing him back next season).
Anyway, from a strictly on-court perspective, Lopez would be a damn near perfect fit to compliment this already tantalizing roster.
He addresses two of the three main roster-building concerns we’ve outlined ad nauseam: shooting and rim protection. In the last three seasons, he’s shot 40% on his wide-open 3-point attempts, which is in the 58th percentile league-wide (per thinkingbasketball.net). That would serve as a huge boost to a team that only had four players above league average in that category on their roster last season.
(Sidebar: The Pelicans’ third major weakness is rim pressure outside of Williamson.)
As for rim protection, the Pelicans were dead-last in opponent rim accuracy (71.6%) last season (per Cleaning the Glass). Meanwhile, teams shot just 61.9% around the rim against Milwaukee when Lopez was on the floor (91st percentile).
Now, he does have some limitations as a defender. Smaller/faster players can burn him when he’s forced to switch out at them on the perimeter. However, in those situations where New Orleans needs to go for a more switch-heavy attack, they can lean on the more agile Larry Nance Jr. (or go super small-ball with Herbert Jones at the five).
Overall, if New Orleans could somehow manage to land Lopez, that alone would make their offseason a massive win.