by Sean Ceglinsky / @seanceglinsky

From California straight to the League.

From the perceived easy-going beach life, with palm trees as far as the eye can see in the oftentimes scenic backdrop, straight to the grind and rigors of battling down underneath the basket with fellow post players for boards and buckets in the NBA.

It’s a path some individuals only dream about.

It’s a path successfully navigated by Brook Lopez.

At least, it appears as if he has been successful.

Entering his fourth season in the League, provided the pending lockout doesn’t spoil things this time around, Lopez is poised to take yet another step in his overall development and rightfully add his name to the mix among the upper echelon of centers.

His potential has never been questioned. Accordingly, his selection at this position in the SLAMonline Top 50 countdown is worthy, by most standards.

Not too shabby for a dude whose family has roots out in the San Fernando Valley, less than 30 minutes from the California coastline. High school followed in centrally-located Fresno. A short jaunt up North to Stanford for college was the next order of business.

He’s a Golden State product through and through.

Lopez was on the fast track right from the start. In fact, last year, he checked in at No. 33 in this poll. All signs pointed to big-time breakout effort from him.

At first glance, his averages of more than 20 points per game and 6 rebounds for the Nets a season ago were respectable numbers. Throw in a 79 percent clip from the free-throw line and 49 percent shooting from the field, and you have the makings of a star.

Nevertheless, some thought he fell off ever so slightly.

Perhaps playing in New Jersey has something to do with the lack of recognition. Whoever has a say in this matter, by the way, better have their head checked.

Nonetheless, the bar has been set high for Lopez.

In his first three years in the NBA, he has career averages of 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Come on people, that’s about as consistent as it gets.

For the all of the doubters, the naysayers, it’s all good.

Haters beware, the negativity serves as motivation.

Lopez, most likely, would like nothing more than to silence all of his critics. An uptick in his numbers across the board would do wonders for his image.

Rest assured, fantasy basketball aficionados are well aware of the upside he possesses. Lopez figures to fly off the board in drafts all over the country.

Who knows, this time next year, Lopez could be on the verge of climbing up the charts. Maybe even jump into the top 25 in these very same rankings.

If anyone can do it, the California kid is the man.

SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2011
RankPlayerTeamPositionPos. Rank
50Luol DengBullsSF8
49Andrew BogutBucksC7
48Ray AllenCelticsSG9
47Marc GasolGrizzliesC6
46David WestHornetsPF15
45Kevin MartinRocketsSG8
44Andrew BynumLakersC5
43Brandon JenningsBucksPG11
42Lamar OdomLakersPF14
41Gerald WallaceBlazersSF7
40Brook LopezNetsC4

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’11-12 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Maurice Bobb, Shannon Booher, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Jon Jaques, Eldon Khorshidi, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Quinn Peterson, Dave Schnur, Abe Schwadron, Dan Shapiro, Irv Soonachan, Todd Spehr, Tzvi Twersky, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Ben York.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.