Brook Lopez may be packing his bags for good out of Brooklyn soon, but the biggest move he’s made so far this season has just been away from the basket.
The numbers bear it out: His average shot distance of 9.3 feet would rank as a career high. You’ve probably seen it a few times already: Lopez plants himself after a screen (known as “the pick-and-stick” on YES Network), waits for his defender to drop on a driving guard, and waits for his open look.
As the charts below show, the percentage of shots he’s taking from 16 feet & out is far and away the most of his career, and he’s taking fewer shots from within 10 feet than ever.
(A reminder: this is the percentage of shots taken, not shooting percentage.)
To put this in perspective, the seven-foot Lopez, who led the NBA in points off “cuts” to the basket (which includes things like dump-offs by guards for dunks and layups) just two seasons ago, has taken a higher percentage of his set shots from 16 feet & out (27.2%) than dunks & layups from within 3 feet (26.9%).
It’s a staggering change: once a post-dominant scorer and Deron Williams’s finisher at the rim, Lopez is now a set shooter who fires 17-footers.
The reason he’s moved further from the basket is like most Brook Lopez trade rumors: tons of theories, but nothing concrete. Lopez himself said he was comfortable shooting from the perimeter but freely admitted “I don’t know what the answer would be” when The Brooklyn Game asked him about it last week.
It’s possible he’s spending more time outside of the paint to preserve his shaky right foot, which has undergone two bone fractures and three surgeries in the past four years, but he’s also grabbing more rebounds than ever, which is a paint-oriented and physical activity. It’s also possible that Lopez sees the writing on the wall in Brooklyn, and doesn’t want to exert too much on the offensive end with one foot (so to speak) out the door beyond open jump shots.
For what it’s worth, Lopez is shooting a decent 44.6 percent on two-pointers from 16 feet & out, and hit the first three-pointer of his career (regular season only). But that’s nowhere close to the efficiency he once displayed as a paint scorer, and any team that takes a flier on him — including the Nets — has to wonder if he can ever become that player again.