Brook Lopez: Leading the Brigade

Final Stats: 82 G, 82 GS, 35.2 MPG,  20.4 PPG, 1.6 APG, 6.0 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 1.5 BPG, .492 FG%, .787 FT%, 19.33 PER

For the second time in as many seasons, Brook Lopez was the offensive leader of the Nets, boasting an impressive 19.33 PER over the course of the season. Unfortunately for him, rebounding woes shrouded what was a notable season on the low block. Lopez remains unique in the NBA with regard to the way he gets his points. While he isn’t the best of the best among scoring big men, he possesses an affinity to score from the 10- to 15-foot range that precious few others have. With his combination of jump hooks, set shots, fadeaways, and a propensity to draw fouls (particularly on the rip move increasingly loathed around the league), Lopez relies heavily on skill, not on talent, to show up in the scoring column.

Still, that rebounding total was a major scarlet letter. It’s not worth debating here the reason that he was so poor on the glass. The only way to approach this is to call it unforgivable and encourage him to do the work in the offseason to improve. Having spent a year with Kris Humphries, hopefully he picked up some things and will know how to work alongside him next year (assuming Humphries returns). But another asset of Lopez’s that continues to go under the radar is his unflappable durability. Lopez still hasn’t missed a single game in his three-year career, and given the injury problems the Nets have faced that was a blessing in disguise.

The Pink Shirt: While it wasn’t his best game statistically, Lopez’s greatest moment probably came against the Cavaliers on January 24. He ended up with 28 points on 50 percent shooting while pulling in 7 rebounds. The greatness of the contest came in the final moments, when Avery Johnson had the ball dumped into the post to Lopez, who backed down Ryan Hollins (withstanding his Bongo Defense) and hit the jump hook from midrange.

The win was of particular importance, as the Cavaliers were in the midst of their historic losing streak at the time. If they had beaten the Nets, they wouldn’t have set their records for futility.

The Paper Bag: Lopez had a handful of games in which he didn’t score productively, but he tended to rebound in those games. In one particular game, against the Hawks on March 26, Lopez scored just 6 points on 3-of-9 shooting, didn’t pull in a single rebound, and didn’t shoot even one free throw. Needless to say, the Nets lost that game.

Final Thoughts: Brook Lopez is a valuable commodity in this league as a center who gets buckets. In fact, with regard to the Nets, he’s indispensable — with one exception. Should the Magic be amenable to a sign-and-trade deal with Dwight Howard for Brook Lopez, the Nets shouldn’t even hesitate to pull the trigger. Lopez is great, but Howard is the franchise center that the Nets would love to pair with Deron Williams to set the foundation for a successful franchise.

Grade: A-