Before the season began, ESPN’s John Hollinger was asked in a chat if he thought Brook Lopez had the potential to be a 20 and 10 guy (points and rebounds) this season. Hollinger, a big Lopez advocate last season, even suggesting Lopez was as much of a candidate for Rookie of the Year as eventual winner Derek Rose, told the questioner that he liked Lopez a lot, but it was a “major stretch” to expect him to reach that elite 20-10 level.
But Lopez is proving Hollinger, and some of his other critics who say he’s not athletic enough to become a dominant NBA center, wrong. After 20 games, Lopez is averaging 18.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game, and is probably playing the best basketball of his career right now.In his last six games, Lopez is averaging 24.7 points and 10.5 rebounds a game and looks to be reestablishing the chemistry he had with Devin Harris last season. Against the Knicks yesterday, Harris and Lopez were working well with the pick and roll early until New York went zone and started clogging the lane.
As recorded by Basketball-Reference and pointed out by Nets Daily, two of Brook’s recent performances have placed him in an elite group as one of the youngest centers in the NBA since 1986-87 to have scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds multiple times. Lopez actually first accomplished this feat last season against Oklahoma City, making him the fourth youngest center in history to accomplish this. But with his two recent games against Portland (32-14) and Charlotte (31-14), Lopez is the first player under 22 to have at least 30 points and 10 rebounds multiple times since Dwight Howard in 2007. Other under 22 centers who have done it multiple times since 1986-87 are Shaquille O’Neal (one of the best ever) and Brad Daugherty (one of the elite centers in the late 80s an early 90s).
That’s obviously great company to be in. Looking at Lopez’s advanced statistics, he’s improved from last season in nearly every way. His Player Efficiency Rating is at around 19.7 right now, up from 17.94 last season. He’s scoring more points per 40 minutes this season, though his rebound rate is down slightly (14.3, down from 15.8 last year). The one area where Lopez has really disappointed this season, is his field goal percentage, which is around 48 percent – down from 53 percent last year. That has a lot to do with Brook’s shot selection this season. According to 82games, about 48 percent of all of Lopez’s field goal attempts have been jumpers, up from 39 percent last season.
As Sebastian pointed out last week and in his pregame report yesterday, Lopez might see his usage rate increase while moving away from the jump shots under Kiki Vandeweghe and Del Harris. On Friday, only one of Lopez’s 22 field goal attempts was outside of 15 feet. Yesterday, three of his nine attempts was outside of 15 feet. If Kiki and Harris really stress working Lopez in the post more, that 20 and 10 once thought to be a pipe dream by Hollinger, could become a reality.