Brook Lopez made a triumphant return to the basketball court for his first game at NBA speed in nearly a year, dropping 18 points in just under 24 minutes in a dominating 116-85 victory in the Nets’ home opener.
But just how ridiculous was Lopez’s production? Now thanks to the league’s optical tracking data provided by SportVU (and through the magic of video), we can take a closer look.
Firstly, Lopez scored 18 points despite only touching the ball in the frontcourt 16 times. That’s right: Lopez scored more than a point not just per possession, but for every time he touched the ball in the frontcourt. That’s a ridiculous and unparalleled level of efficiency. It’s also a strong indication of his unwillingness to pass — Lopez only passed the ball 13 times, and about half of those were after rebounds — but Lopez is the team’s scoring valve, and when you’re scoring at that rate, it’s hard to complain.
While it’s true the Thunder were undermanned, Lopez put the ball in the basket over a fully stocked frontcourt. Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, Nick Collison, and Kendrick Perkins all played their expected minutes. You could argue that Russell Westbrook would’ve given Lopez trouble on double-teams, but that’s a less salient point.
Also, Lopez possessed the ball for roughly 42 seconds. Optical tracking only accounts for minutes in tenths, so Lopez’s 0.7 minutes of “touch time” comes out to somewhere between 39 and 45 seconds. That’s including touches in the backcourt, usually the product of rebounds. If you lop off a second for every rebound (that’s six of them), that means Lopez scored 18 points in 36 “touch” seconds — or one point every two seconds in the frontcourt.
Lopez has always been a beast on the low block, and after shaking off early rust in the first two quarters, scored by overpowering Oklahoma City’s interior defenders and bullying his way to the rim.
Here’s one example of that, complete with a nice play call from Lionel Hollins:
The end result here is simple; Lopez blasts into Steven Adams, draws the contact, and lopes the ball over Adams’s outstretched fingers with his right hand for the and-one.
But the play was also an innovative call that could’ve ended in an open Nets dunk.
It starts in a HORNS set, with Lopez and Garnett at each elbow by the free throw line, and Bogdanovic & Joe Johnson on each wing. Johnson uses a Garnett screen to swing from the camera-side wing to the opposite wing, which Garnett follows by using a Lopez screen to free himself back towards Johnson.
Ibaka fights to get through Lopez and back to Garnett, who’s shown more of an edge and shooting touch this year, but a breakdown in communication and the fear of Joe Johnson leaves Lopez wide open at the rim. This doesn’t end up mattering on this play, since Johnson doesn’t look to make the pass, but it’s a nice quick look for the future.
The ball eventually gets swung around to Bogdanovic, who gets his three-point attempt tipped into Lopez’s hands, and from there it’s just a simple post-up play, where Lopez can dominate.
It didn’t take long for the Nets to re-integrate Lopez into their offense, and he came back with the ridiculous efficiency we’ve come to expect from a seven-footer with his scoring caliber. If he can stay on the floor all year, there are good signs ahead.
Also, he breathes fire.