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Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 at 12:00 pm  |  35 responses

Top 50: Brook Lopez, no. 31

The highly skilled big man is poised to enter elite company in ’13-14.

by Leo Sepkowitz | @LeoSepkowitz

There are some guys in the League who everybody loves to pick on. Russell Westbrook shoots too much. Dwight Howard is past his prime. Tim Duncan is boring.

Brook Lopez can’t rebound.

We sure about all of that?

Last season, the Nets five-man lineup featuring Lopez, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans rebounded better than any group not stationed in Oklahoma City, Indiana, Portland, Denver or L.A. (Clippers). Evans’ psychotic work on the glass had plenty to do with that, but Lopez’s rebound rates sat right in line with upper echelon bigs like David West and Marc Gasol.

No, Lopez isn’t a great rebounder. But his numbers have taken a hit while playing next to Kris Humphries and Evans over the past few seasons—both exceptionally hyperactive boarders. He hung in there against the Bulls’ loaded frontcourt in the postseason, pulling down about 7.5 rebounds and swatting 3 shots per game during the seven-game set, and his Nets out-rebounded Chicago overall. He’s not a defensive force or a monster on the glass, but he’s good enough.

The Thunder crumbled without Russell Westbrook’s offense in the Playoffs. Howard led the NBA in boards per game last season. Duncan might be the greatest power forward we’ve ever seen. Lopez was the League’s only player to score 1,400 points, grab 500 rebounds and block 150 shots last year. Moving on.

We all know the League is prioritizing speed, athleticism and threes over bangers and back-to-the-basket scorers. That shift makes a guy like Lopez, a true 7-footer, one of the L’s most valuable pieces. Some teams are forced to effectively play four-on-five when they have the ball because of their offensively inept centers (I’m lookin’ at you, Kendrick Perkins). Some teams opt for a floor-stretcher who can’t hold his own in the post (enjoy New York, Andrea Bargnani!). The Nets have a dual threat at center, something most teams in the League just don’t have.

Lopez’s versatility should be on full display this season, as the Nets have, finally, placed the right guys around him. Playing alongside Kevin Garnett, Lopez will be able to live under the hoop while KG stretches the floor with his elite mid-range game. Lopez’s own ability to knock down perimeter shots (39 percent from mid-range was about on par with Duncan last season) will open the lane for Williams. With Johnson and Paul Pierce lined up on the wings, it’s hard to imagine a better five-man unit to run a simple drive-and-kick with.

In past years, Lopez’s offensive game has been slowed by his frontcourt mates’ offensive shortcomings—Humphries, Evans, Wallace, you name it. In Round 1 against Chicago, the Bulls stacked the paint against Williams and Lopez, daring somebody else to beat them. Nobody rose to the challenge. Throughout the seven games against Chicago, the Nets shot below 32 percent from downtown, a number that would have bested only the TWolves during the regular season.

That won’t be the case against the newer-look Nets, as a double-team on Lopez will leave one of Williams, Johnson, Pierce or Garnett all alone. That’ll translate to more man defense on the Nets’ center, and, ultimately, lots more buckets.

On the other end of the floor, Garnett should help Lopez in a big way, mainly as an intimidator. I’m not sure many players were afraid to drive against the likes of Humphries and Andray Blatche last season.

People love to hate on Lopez. His flaws are pointed to more often than his strengths, but I think this will be the season that changes. A year ago, expectations were set too high for a Nets team that had a loud offseason but failed to address major issues—floor spacing and depth, to name two. Brooklyn figures to be a far more balanced team this time around, and the high expectations are deserved.

The Nets are in the discussion with Indiana, Chicago, New York and Miami as teams with a shot to win the East. But they could easily be the worst team of the bunch—Pierce and Garnett are probably 20-25 minute guys who will take some games off, and even Johnson is entering his age-32 season. For the Nets to get where they want to go, they’ll need Lopez to establish himself as a true force on both ends of the floor. He’s well on his way.

Where should Brook Lopez rank in the SLAM Top 50?

Loading ... Loading ...
SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2013
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Monta Ellis Mavs SG 5
49 Luol Deng Bulls SF 10
48 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 14
47 Greg Monroe Pistons PF 12
46 Kawhi Leonard Spurs SF 9
45 Mike Conley Grizzlies PG 13
44 Al Jefferson Bobcats C 9
43 David Lee Warriors PF 11
42 Jrue Holiday Pelicans PG 12
41 Anthony Davis Pelicans PF 10
40 Joe Johnson Nets SG 4
39 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 9
38 Kevin Garnett Nets PF 8
37 Rudy Gay Raptors SF 8
36 Paul Pierce Nets SF 7
35 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 11
34 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 7
33 Al Horford Hawks C 8
32 Andre Iguodala Warriors SF 6
31 Brook Lopez Nets C 7

Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.

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  • Hum

    FIRST¡!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!¡!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • i_ball

    He wasn’t ranked last year?
    I’m really expecting him to have a big season.
    I wonder how high will DMC be, I guess the slam voters expect that next season (again) he matures and actually utilizes his potential but I don’t see it happening

  • Wizzy

    How is Lopez ranked this LOW? The man was 5th overall in PER last year (Only LeBron, KD, CP3, and Melo were higher), 1st among centers, and yet he’s ranked 7th at his position. This projection makes even less sense when you consider that he’s now surrounded by more talent around him than ever before. He finally has a SF and PF that can make perimeter shots and teams won’t be able to pack the lane against him or double team without getting burned by someone else. Give the man some respect.

  • spit hot fiyah

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9Kjc46AJ4U

    if anyone needs help to pronounce his name

  • LakeShow

    Who cares about PER except nerds, that’s why…

    He’s maybe 5 spots better, calm down.(coming from a Lopez fan)

  • Wizzy

    Thank you for that enlightening response.

  • shockexchange

    Lake has gotten his dander up.

  • davidR

    his production might actually take a hit now that brooklyn has a lot more weapons to choose from

  • http://www.netstakeover.com/ JetSkiJohnson

    nah he’s going to be the main guy.

  • http://www.rich-imaging.com/ Dutch Rich

    Nice piece Leo!

  • http://SLAMonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Check their pronunciation of Joakim Noah.

  • davidR

    yea he’ll be the main guy, but will his production make a notable increase is the question.

    19pts on 52% shooting is efficient. but when you also got deron, joe, paul, kg, and the off the bench weapons, i just don’t see his overall production making a huge jump

  • http://www.netstakeover.com/ JetSkiJohnson

    It all depends on the system.

  • LakeShow

    It is just how I really feel.

    I mean honestly, tell me what it means about Brook that he has the “5th best PER”… It doesn’t say sh*t. Right?
    It just implies he is one of the more productive centers, but nothing more. It’s not like he is anywhere near the top 15 players let alone top 5 in the L…

  • Dagger

    That statement is about five years out of date. NBA staff and, increasingly, players care about advanced stats, and that trend will only increase.

  • Guest

    It doesn’t tell the whole story (no stats do). That’s why there’s that saying “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”. But it does seem like a pretty good way to measure a players overall numerical contribution.

  • spit hot fiyah

    i will post it in due time

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  • LakeShow

    So then maybe you can tell me Dagger, what does Brooks 5th best PER in the L tell us of him?
    Is he close to a top 5 player?
    Top 10?
    Top 15?
    I think he’s around #25-30 and his PER does not reflect that so that’s why we should not use PER as a end all be all stat or a deal breaker when viewing players. It’s just a good addition to the stat train.

  • Docio

    Give me Al Horford.

  • Dagger

    I’ll take a stab at it.

    As you know, PER is just a way of synthesizing everything we know about a player’s production. Obviously it privileges efficiency and offensive output. It’s a way of evaluating production that, while based on some subjective assumptions (like all means of measuring), nevertheless gives us a comprehensive mathematical method of interpreting statistics. That’s important, because the alternative is to look at isolated “simple” statistics (like PPG) to cobble together some foggy impression of a player’s output. Of course, a player’s PER needs to be contextualized, and it’s not a direct reflection of a player’s worth. It doesn’t measure intangibles – like leadership – or, for that matter, athletic ability and skill. So it’s an imperfect metric, but it’s damn useful.

    Brook’s PER reflects that he’s an incredibly efficient offensive player. It suggests that he’s one of the most productive and valuable young bigs in the game. It indicates that he might be more productive – and a more important part of his team – than we might assume by looking at, for example, PPG or RPG.

    Your last sentences are interesting. You’re right: there’s a difference between using PER as a be all end all, and using it to affirm – or revise – what we think about a player. No, Brook is not a top-10 player. He’s not a good enough defender, not a good enough rebounder, and not a good enough passer. To me, Brook’s PER is an important piece of evidence, something that suggests that he’s a top-20 player. Without knowing his PER, I would probably assume that he’d be ranked 31st.

  • LakeShow

    I take some slight umbrage with some parts of your explanation.

    “Brook’s PER reflects that he’s an incredibly efficient offensive player. It suggests that he’s one of the most productive and valuable young bigs in the game. It indicates that he might be more productive – and a more important part of his team – than we might assume by looking at, for example, PPG or RPG.”

    Brook isn’t really that efficient.

    Take Damien Lillard for instance. The rook shot 43% from the field. But still scored 19ppg on 15.7 shots. Brook is at 19.4 on 15 shots a game.

    So a volume low fg% guy like Lillard scores with similar efficiency to Brook.

    Deron Williams scored 19ppg on 14.4 fg’s.

    I know i’m just gabbing people and stats, but i’m trying to do my best to explain why certain PER stats are completely use-less.

    I also realize you’re not saying that PER is strictly about shooting the ball with efficiency, it covers a number of things. But as we both know, Brook is a bad rebounder and there’s really no way around that. His rebounding alone would make you think his PER couldn’t be highest among centers, but alas it is.

    There is really no explaining why Brook Lopez has a higher PER than Marc Gasol, Zach Randolf, Lamarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard imo.

  • Lenin-Gil Phillips

    This year Lopez might just become a Superstar. KG gonna be all up in his ear pushing him to get better offensively and defensively.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Here is the best explanation of PER I know of,
    .
    “@AndrewLynch: @ChuckShots To me, PER is a number that tells you the rough offensive value of a player, including his defensive contributions…”

  • LakeShow

    It doesn’t though, right?

    “PER is a number that tells you the rough offensive value of a player, including his defensive contributions”

    That makes it sound like it’s a complete stat that takes both sides of the ball into account… It’s not.

    Brook isn’t the 5th best in the L.(Maybe 5th best center)

    He’s not the only anomaly in the PER kingdom either.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Come on pothead read it slower

  • LakeShow

    I just didn’t expect you to post a post that was saying that PER is not the greatest thing since sliced bread. Took me off guard. Plus i’m baked off my ass lol.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    It is basically saying it’s an offensive stat, that tries to guess at what the defense adds in terms of help. So blocks, steals, and defensive rebounds are over valued.

  • 3Chainz

    How is Jokemm Nukem not top 50??? Man this is str8 spaghetti sauce!

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