Milwaukee Bucks: What should a Brook Lopez extension look like?

Mar 14, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 14, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports /

In addition to signing their own unrestricted free agents this summer and trying to tweak the roster depth to support the main core, the Milwaukee Bucks need to think about contract extensions for guys in that main core, specifically Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton.

Middleton will be the focus of the extension analysis and for good reason, he’s the better player, we saw how vital he is to the Bucks’ offense, and his last few seasons make it interesting as to what type of extension he’d get and we’ll get into that soon. However, Lopez has a very interesting case coming up as well.

Should the Milwaukee Bucks extend Brook Lopez?

Let’s start with an easy answer: yes, absolutely.

We saw how important Lopez’s presence is to the Bucks’ defense this season with him missing most of the season after having back surgery. In 67 games without Lopez this season, the Bucks ranked 12th in defensive rating at 110.1 after being in the top 10 (or top one!) in the previous three seasons where Lopez played the majority of the games.

He came back and, as we saw in the playoffs, that transformed how they played at that end of the floor. Milwaukee is still first in defensive rating in the playoffs this season at 102.7, over three points better than the second-best defense.

Marques Johnson explained why Lopez is so vital to what the Bucks do defensively in an appearance on The Lowe Post back in March.

"“Brook is the anchor of this defense. Brook’s rim protection is the best in the league, in my opinion, bar none. And that’s without blocking shots, that’s just position. He plays that drop defense, I won’t say plays it the best in the league, but he plays it exactly how Coach Bud wants it played. Keep the ball in front of you, have vision of your man, don’t get beat backdoor for lobs. I mean (Clint) Capela and some of these lob specialists have been killing us because Bobby (Portis) doesn’t do it well, Giannis doesn’t do it well. Brook does it exactly how Coach Bud wants it.”"

Lopez is exactly the type of center that head coach Mike Budenholzer wants and they haven’t ever really found a suitable replacement for Lopez that can play their base drop coverage defense as well as he can.

The other big key is that Lopez returned at a high level from his back surgery. If you asked this question in the early stages of Lopez’s recovery, I would have been more hesitant. At 34-years-old and coming off of serious surgery, that’s just a lot of uncertainty. But now that we’ve seen Lopez was as good as ever defensively, it’s an easy yes to whether or not they should extend him at all. Next is the price.

What should a contract extension for Brook Lopez from the Milwaukee Bucks look like?

Milwaukee can extend their defensive anchor for up to four years and as much as $74.7 million with a starting salary of $16.7 million in the first season. That would be a little rich for a guy who will be a 35-year-old big man with a lot of miles on him regardless of how well he responded to the back surgery.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks projected a two-year, $20 million contract extension for Lopez which would be more than reasonable. He is coming off of a four-year, $52 million extension that will pay him nearly $14 million in the final year (this upcoming season).

It would be a slight pay decrease but part of that would be because of his age as well as any lingering questions surrounding his health after having back surgery. For as good as he looked, back problems can persist so both Lopez and the Bucks will need to be careful. Expect to see some more rest days in the future.

The length is also reasonable in a deal that will take him until he’s 37-years-old. For as good as Lopez is and has been, Milwaukee needs to seriously consider trying to find his eventual successor. The two-year term would give him and the team time to find that replacement and have Lopez also help that player adjust to Budenholzer’s defense and show him how their head coach wants them to play the drop coverage.

I thought that Portis could be the viable long-term solution to their center problem, but over time we saw that their aggressive pick-and-roll coverage with Portis hedging or trapping wasn’t the answer as it’s just too hard to play that type of coverage for long periods.

The Bucks need Lopez if they want to continue being a championship contender as he is the perfect center to compliment Giannis Antetokounmpo and until they can find a decent replacement long-term, they need to make sure Lopez is under contract for multiple years beyond this one.

Next. 3 best options for the Milwaukee Bucks in the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft. dark

The Milwaukee Bucks have a couple of other more pressing needs but finding a respectable long-term center solution should be top of mind as well.