Years Pro: 5
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Prior to NBA: Stanford University
In a sea of NBA players trying to emulate Jordan or replicate Kobe, Lopez stands alone as a unique outcast. He has no true NBA peer or equal. He’s a comic-book loving goofball that counts Bill Clinton and Willie from Duck Dynasty as his friends. In a daily barrage of social media from athletes, Lopez’s only online contribution is a private Instagram account he created exclusively for his pet cat. His idea of a pump-up movie for teammates is Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
Oh: he’s also a brilliant offensive basketball player who turned in the best season of his career last year.
Where does a player go after his breakout year?
Lopez, (mostly) healthy for the first time in years, turned in a sublime season in 2012-13, averaging 19.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks in about thirty minutes per game, shooting 52.1% from the field as the team’s primary offensive option. He led the NBA in points off plays classified as “cuts” by Synergy Sports Technology, by both finding slivers of space around the basket and developing a keen understanding with Deron Williams; of his 162 made field goals off cuts, over half were assisted on by Brooklyn’s star point guard.
The Lopez-Williams pairing isn’t discussed much in NBA coverage, but after Williams dealt with a revolving door of NBA castoffs at center in 2011-12, he had to feel immense relief throwing passes that could be converted into easy buckets. Indeed, the Nets outscored opponents by 4.5 points per 100 possessions with the two on the floor, more than three points better than when the two didn’t share court space. When Lopez and Williams were on the court together, 41 percent of Lopez’s made baskets came off Williams dimes.
A point guard of Williams’s skill level inflates Lopez’s numbers, but that doesn’t mean they’re unearned. Lopez has elite touch from within eight feet of the basket, a keen understanding of when to dive towards the rim, and a midrange jumper decent enough to force a defensive presence out of the paint when he’s floating away from the hoop.
Defensively, Lopez took steps towards maximizing his potential. Slow, plodding steps, but steps nonetheless. Lopez works best defensively when he’s already in the paint, and the Nets often cross-switched screens, keeping him down low to help when opponents drove to the basket.
Without the stresses of mononucleosis or a broken foot, Lopez looked a bit quicker than in previous years, and his timing on blocked shots and contests helped improve the team’s defense ever so slightly.
This year, with Kevin Garnett as his primary frontcourt mate and an all-star cast of assistant coaches tweaking the team’s defensive schemes, he’ll get a chance to learn from the best in the business while playing with one of the league’s best defensive players ever. Not a bad coup.
So after the best season of his career, cementing himself as one of the NBA’s top interior scorers, what’s next for Brook Lopez?
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