Brooklyn Nets’ center Brook Lopez has been ranked 38th in Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 rankings and, unfortunately, no other teammates made the list.
Lopez, who earned one vote for the All-NBA third team last spring, is credited with doing as much as he could with so little around him. In practicality, this should seem like a slight to the rest of the Nets, but it’s become Lopez’s M.O. as of late. As writer Rob Mahoney explains, Lopez is the needle in the Nets’ haystack:
Lopez plodded along as usual last season to help carry the hapless Nets as much as one could. That it was all for naught is less a reflection on him than on the roster. No big could have redeemed a group that lacking and that inexperienced, especially when considering that post work has become a spatially collaborative enterprise. He did what he could under the circumstances—including dropping 20.6 points per game on 51.1% shooting from the field in a similar portioning of offense to years past. The bulk of it came from the post, though Lopez has also diversified his offense with plenty of rolls and cuts to avoid systemic stagnation. Those skill sets have even less overlap around the league than one might think. Very few of the league’s post specialists have a good sense of how to move and duck in at an opportune moment for an easy score, yet Lopez bolsters his efficiency on touches of that very kind. There’s only so much that a defense can do when a 7-footer slices through the lane for a deep, unexpected catch. Lopez takes that opportunity and runs with it, creating an additional lane of accessibility for his skilled offensive game. Thanks to wrinkles like this, Lopez could still function as a primary or secondary scoring option on a very good team. There just isn’t much in his game to actually elevate lesser players around him—especially given that Lopez is only an occasional passer from the low block and largely just a passable interior defender. He works, in good times and bad, as something of a monolith. (Last year: No. 38)
For those that have watched Lopez since his 2008 debut in New Jersey, this type of assessment should come as no surprise. His evolved post game and opportunistic body contortion have been a blessing throughout some of the Nets’ darkest times — but his shortcomings are still nearly the same as they were when he was drafted. Without Lopez, of course, the Nets could have face planted into the league’s worst record, so 38th seems like a fair ranking for the man fast becoming one of the franchise’s best players ever.
Elsewhere… well, there was no elsewhere as Lopez was the only Net to make the cut. Of course, it is way too early for promising youngsters Rondae Hollis-Jefferson or Chris McCullough to sniff the list, but the exclusion of Bojan Bogdanovic and Jeremy Lin have puzzled a few. Although it’s tough to argue against the young value of players like Aaron Gordon (99) and Devin Booker (100), Bogdanovic was Rio’s top scorer and Lin was a crucial cog in that killer Charlotte Hornets rotation alongside Kemba Walker.
If Bogdanovic’s lofty prediction comes true then there’s a chance that the Nets’ exclusion from this list could look silly come April.