Team MVP: The Case For Brook Lopez

Brook Lopez
Where do the Nets go from here without Brook Lopez? (AP)
Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez. (AP)

Season Numbers: 74 G, 74 GS, 30.4 MPG, 19.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 52.1 FG%, 75.8 FT%, 24.7 PER, 9.0 WS

The debate over what an MVP award means rages and enrages. Some may say that it should go to the best player, while others might argue it should go to the player who is most critical to a team’s success. While the best player, in most cases, is often the most critical to a team’s success, the situation with the Brooklyn Nets this season is somewhat different.

For me, an MVP is someone who changes the team dynamic when on the floor and when taken off, the team is simply not the same. Brook Lopez — though not as flashy and provocative as most star players in the NBA — is that player for the Nets this season.

Lopez had a career-defining year: fifth in the NBA in PER, leading his team in scoring, blocks, and FG% — a team with the ninth best winning percentage in the NBA. You may also note that the only players ahead of Lopez in PER this season are LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony — the four who many consider to be the top MVP candidates.

Lopez’s value to the Nets goes beyond individual statistics. The team’s success differs drastically when Lopez is on the court. The Nets’ NetRtg of +4.7 when Brook Lopez is on the court ranks tops among all Nets players. The dramatic difference in net plus/minus when Lopez is off and on the court is telling as well: when Lopez is on, the Nets are a +5.7 per 100 possessions. When Lopez is off, the Nets are a -2.9 per 100 possessions. The 7.6 difference in points is the largest among all Nets players this season.

Not only will the on/off court stats tell you just how valuable Brook Lopez is to this Nets team, but so will former head coach, Avery Johnson. Way back in November, the Nets were experiencing great success — they went 11-4 in that month, and Johnson won the NBA Eastern Conference Coach of the Month. One huge contributor to the success was none other than Brook Lopez. In November, Lopez averaged 18.5 PPG, 2.5 blocks per game, shot 53.4% from the field, all while playing just under 30 minutes per contest.

On November 28th, Lopez suffered a sprained foot in a 95-83 win over the Celtics. Though considered nothing serious, the Nets held the 7-footer out of their next seven contests for precautionary reasons. It was in this stretch, that things began to unravel for not only the Nets, but for Avery Johnson as well.

The Nets went just 2-5 in that seven-game stretch. In the five losses — all against playoff-bound teams — the Nets sorely missed Lopez’s presence in the paint on both offense and defense. Clearly out of sorts from the absence of Lopez, the Nets skidded through a 3-10 stretch to drop to 14-14 in the month of December, and Johnson — again, Coach of the Month in the previous month — was relieved of his coach duties. The question that many, including Johnson himself, must often ponder is whether Johnson would still be coaching the Brooklyn Nets had Brook Lopez not gotten hurt.

With Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and even Joe Johnson having some really special moments throughout their 2012-2013 campaigns, the Nets team MVP race this season was not an easy one. In what was such a difficult decision between Lopez and Williams, I decided to go with Lopez for not only his superb numbers, but also his steadiness and consistency throughout the entire season.