Here’s three points of emphasis for Brook Lopez this year.
1) Offensive Rebounding. Tales of Lopez’s rebounding follies are greatly exaggerated– he’s far from Dennis Rodman but he’s not exactly Dennis Leary. The team rebounded better with Lopez on the floor than off, and Lopez didn’t get enough credit for his ability to box out opponents while Reggie Evans swooped in for uncontested rebounds. SportVU, the NBA’s new digital tracking cameras, also support the idea that Brook Lopez’s rebounding is underrated.
(Lopez, incidentally, bulked up to 290 pounds this offseason, adding fifteen pounds from the previous season. He says his playing weight will likely be closer to 280-285, more weight to throw around in the paint when battling for boards.)
But Lopez won’t be playing the majority of his minutes with one of the league’s finest rebounders in Evans; he’ll spend most of his time flanking Kevin Garnett, one of the best big men in NBA history but a player who’s shied further and further from the basket as he’s aged. Garnett’s only grabbed 5.7 percent of all available offensive rebounds in his last four seasons on the floor, well below the league average for a big man, and Lopez will need to pick up that slack.
2) Off-ball defense. This is one of Lopez’s more obvious weaknesses, and one of his tougher fixes. Lopez is not particularly fleet of foot, which leaves him at a disadvantage against quicker NBA centers like Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah or New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler. He just can’t roam from block to block at their speed.
That doesn’t make improvement impossible. Lopez’s shot-blocking instincts are good, and his on-ball defense inside is much improved. The Nets didn’t have a cohesive defensive system last year, and while much of that was due to Lopez’s deficiencies, adding Kevin Garnett and Lawrence Frank should do wonders for Lopez’s on-court awareness. There’s also the subjective idea that a lesser focus on offense could conceivably allow Lopez to focus more on the defensive end; I haven’t found any hard data that presents evidence that that happens normally, but it’s certainly a fair theory.
3) Staying inside. No, not in your house, Brook. You can read comics later. We’re talking about the paint here.
There’s two reasons Lopez should abandon his outside shot. Firstly, his frontcourt mates last season were Reggie Evans, who swallows rebounds like an anaconda but spaces the floor about as well as a glass of milk, and Gerald Wallace, who shot a league-worst 27.3% outside of the painted area last season. The Nets needed Lopez to shoot jumpers occasionally just to let anyone else get into the paint, ever.
Okay, now replace Reggie Evans with a poor offensive rebounder, but league’s best shooter from 18 feet above the foul line, and replace Gerald Wallace with one of the league’s best above-the-break shooters ever.
Still see the need to space the floor, Brook?
Secondly, a dirty little secret about Lopez is that even though he enjoys putting up jump shots, and he shows flashes of being a dangerous jump shooter, he’s so incredibly more effective inside it’s almost laughable. Look at Lopez’s shot chart from last season:
Don’t let the colors fool you. That’s just a comparison to the league average in those spots, not a comparison to the league’s overall field goal percentage. Focus on the numbers. Lopez shot 64.6% in the restricted area, a solid 44.9% inside the paint, and 38.9% on jump shots outside of the paint, but shot almost 30 percent of his shots outside the painted area. Lopez should still have license to occasionally shoot from outside, but adding Garnett and Pierce to an already formidable shooting lineup, Lopez’s priorities should be to float around the paint and get easy buckets.
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| Shaun Livingston | Deron Williams | Tyshawn Taylor | Alan Anderson | Joe Johnson | Jason Terry | Andrei Kirilenko | Paul Pierce | Tornike Shengelia | Reggie Evans | Kevin Garnett | Mirza Teletovic | Andray Blatche | Brook Lopez | Mason Plumlee |