Celtics Lucky to Have Al Horford, Not Brook Lopez
Photo Credit: AP / Charles Krupa
Ever since the steep decline of the Brooklyn Nets when they got absolutely swindled by Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics in the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade, Brook Lopez’s time with the franchise was known to be limited. Despite signing the big man to a three-year deal worth about $63.5 million prior to the 2015-2016 season, Brooklyn was known to be shopping Lopez for most of last year.
One of Lopez’s reported suitors were the Celtics, though a deal to ship him to Boston never materialized. Instead, on June 22, 2017, the Nets accepted a deal to send him and the rights to Kyle Kuzma (the 27th pick in the 2017 NBA draft), to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov.
Celtics’ fans had an opportunity to see what their team missed out on when the Lakers visited the TD Garden for a November 8th matchup with Boston. The result: not much.
The 29-year-old seven-footer totaled 10 points on 5-11 shooting over 18 minutes played, while also recording four boards, one assist, and a pair of blocks in LA’s eventual 107-96 loss. Lopez’s emerging outside game was nowhere to be found during the contest either, as he missed all four of his attempts from behind the arc.
Meanwhile, Boston’s premiere big man, Al Horford, was sidelined during the game with a concussion, but it was evident without Horford even setting foot on the floor that he was the better player over Lopez.
Horford earns about $5 million more per year than his Lakers counter-part, but Boston gets every dime of that pay discrepancy back in on-court production. Throughout the beginning of Boston’s 2017-2018 campaign, Horford has been the glue that holds the Celtics team together. There’s been massive roster upheaval around him with the swapping of Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving in the offseason, but Big Al has looked even better in his second season in Beantown than he did in his first. He forces defenses to stay honest in the pick-and-roll game with his ability to knock down the pop-out three pointer at a blistering 47.4 percent. Horford is also one of the best passing centers in the league, dishing out 4.7 assets per game, and has improved his rebounding rate from a career-low 6.8 per game a season ago to 9.2 boards per contest this year.
Through the seasons first eleven games with the Lakers, Lopez has totaled per game averages of 15.8 points, 4,6 rebounds and 2.0 assists, while shooting percentages of 45.3 percent from the floor and 36.7 percent from three point range. Of those averages, Lopez holds an advantage over Horford in just one category, putting up a little over a point more than Horford’s 14.6 mark per contest. The four-time All-Star Horford is actually shooting a better clip from three-point range than Lopez is from the field, while knocking down over half of his own field goal attempts (53.1 percent).
Boston dodged a bullet when they did not strike a deal for Lopez’s services. In order to obtain him the Celtics would have had to deplete their stock of trade assets, likely making them unable to make a deal down the line should another talented big such as Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, or Kevin Love become available to pair with Horford as the season moves on.
Even when taking the potential loss of trade bait in order to require him out of the equation, Boston is still better off without Horford this year. Daniel Theis and Aron Baynes, the latter of whom put up 21 points to outscore Lopez during their head-to-head matchup, are much better fits for this Celtics team, and vastly cheaper too.
Once again, “Trader Danny” knows what he is doing ladies and gentleman.