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Rookie Retrospective: Brook Lopez
by: Scott Nadler
March 2, 2009
In the newest installment of Rookie Retrospectives, we take a look at the 10th pick in last year's draft, Brook Lopez. The former Stanford Cardinal has been a real bright spot for the Nets this season, establishing himself as an outstanding rebounder and shot-blocker right off the bat, while displaying excellent potential offensively as well. He seems to be improving with each game as well, becoming a nice complement to New Jersey's two perimeter stars. Mature and composed beyond his years on the floor, Lopez proves to be both a good teammate and an eager student of the game. Coupled with his shooting ability, strong frame, and athleticism, those qualities should help Lopez become a force in the Eastern Conference in the not too distant future.

Rookie Retrospective: Greg Oden
Rookie Retrospective, Russell Westbrook
Rookie Retrospective, D.J. Augustin
Rookie Retrospective, O.J. Mayo
Rookie Retrospective, Michael Beasley
Rookie Retrospective, Derrick Rose

Rookie Retrospective: Brook Lopez
Scott Nadler

C, 7'0” 260, 1988 New Jersey Nets
12.6 Points; 8.1 Rebounds; 1.9 Blocks; 51.4% FG; 82.2 FT; 3.1 Fouls; 29.9 Minute




Part One: Post Game (Good)

Then:

“Stanford is relying on Lopez to score more this season, especially on the low block, where Lopez’s results have been mixed. Inside five feet, Lopez looks nearly automatic, showing good touch and the strength to finish over pretty much anyone at this level. He shows solid footwork and will use drop-steps, spin moves, and mini-hooks to score. When he wants to, Lopez does an excellent job establishing deep position and sealing his man off down low.”
NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/25/08- Part Two

Now:

Lopez obviously isn’t being relied upon anywhere near as heavily by the New Jersey Nets as he was by Stanford last year. He’s asked to shoulder less offensive responsibility, which has made him quite a bit more efficient from the field, upping his percentages from 46.8% to 51.3%. He’s much more of a finisher now, cutting off the ball, playing pick and roll with his guards, and taking catch and shoot jump-shots—as opposed to his role on Stanford—where he was asked to catch the ball in the post and grind with his back to the basket on nearly every possession.

Part Two: Post Game (Bad)

Then:

“Lopez is very formulaic in this range when he has his back to the basket, never trying to further back his man down once he has the ball, never putting the ball on the floor for more than one dribble, and almost always going right up into a right-handed hook shot or a turnaround jumper, often rushing his shot. Watching him in this area of the court, you get the idea that he knows exactly what he's going to do even before he gets the ball, regardless of how the defense is reacting to him. He shows no counter-moves or fakes in this range, and doesn't adjust to what the defense gives him. Lopez has had very little success with his hook shot from this range so far this season, and while he's done slightly better with his turnaround jumper, he still isn't converting on that consistently either. It seems as if Lopez really lacks in comfort level and confidence with his back to the basket in this five to seven foot range, and that's something he'll need to work on moving forward.”
NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/25/08- Part Two

Now:

According to Synergy Sports Technology, Lopez gets 34% of his offense with his back to the basket in the post, but only converts on 42% of those attempts. On all other shots, he’s converting 57%. As many often point out, the biggest change in the level of competition when comparing the NCAA and NBA often has to do with the big men, who are far bigger, stronger and more athletic. As we often saw already last season, Lopez struggles to score at times because of a lack of variety and fluidity in his post repertoire. He loves to go to his right handed hook, but struggles with his consistency and is rather predictable due to the lack of polish on his left hand. The slow and mechanical coordination he shows in the post hurt his effectiveness as well, and he has a tendency to predetermine what move he's going to use before he even touches the ball.

Never considered much of a passer in college, Lopez has continued along that same path in the NBA thus far, even regressing statistically in that aspect. He’s been fairly turnover prone, struggling to deal with double teams and not always quite knowing his limitations, which is not exactly a shock considering his rookie status. Right now he ranks in the top 10 amongst the worst passers per-possession in the NBA.

Many of the problems Lopez has on the offensive end stem from a lack of explosiveness caused by his high center of gravity. Despite the fact that he gets low to maintain position on the block, when he goes into his move he stands too upright, which makes him easy to defend. This is perhaps most evident when looking at how few free throws he attempts a game. Lopez's paltry 2.2 free throws a game ranks him towards the bottom amongst starting centers in the league. For a big man who shoots over 80% from the stripe, he would benefit greatly from getting to the line more often. If he can learn to stay low throughout his pivots and establish a wider base, he'll have an easier time powering towards the basket, which ultimately will lead to more trips to the line.

Lopez also shows some glimpses of potential facing up from the mid-post and beating his man off the dribble—something he surely has the skill-level to do. If he can improve his ball-handling skills enough to utilize this part of his game more, maybe after using a shot-fake, he will surely find himself at the free throw line more as well.

Part Three: Pick and Rolls/Finishing

Then:

“Lopez also has shown a strong knack for finishing on rolls to the basket off pick-and-roll situations, using his size, touch, and good hands to consistently catch and finish at the rim. He also has improved his rebounding this year, showing a good pursuit of the ball and a consistent tendency to box out his man strongly.”
NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/25/08- Part Two

Now:

The pick and roll is a staple of most NBA offenses –especially for teams that have quick, talented point guards. The Nets have one of the quickest and most talented young guards in the game in Devin Harris, and he's certainly very dangerous in pick and roll situations. As good as Harris is, having a solid and skilled big man setting screens for him has helped him put up the numbers he has this season. With Brook Lopez, the Nets drafted a perfect complement to Harris and they can be a deadly one-two punch for years to come for a New Jersey team that has historically ran the pick and roll effectively.

There are several things that make Lopez such a reliable target in these situations. He has great hands and shows it nightly by catching touch passes from Harris or Vince Carter in traffic and laying the ball gently off the glass. They would be reluctant to pass him the ball if he didn't finish –something he excelled at in college and has done well enough this season to earn their respect. He's fundamentally sound at the rim, never dipping the ball or putting it on the ground unnecessarily when he rolls. His outstanding length (possessing a tremendous 7-5 wingspan and 9-5 standing reach) helps him a great deal in that regard, as combined with his size (7-0.5 in shoes) and strength, he’s able to fluidly finish around the basket with relative ease.



Lopez also has a solid basketball IQ. He reads defenders well –knowing when to slip a screen, when to hold the screen for an extra second, and when to pop. The suddenness with which he jumps out to the top of the key from the block to set screens make him even more effective as his man is often a step behind him and late to help out on Harris or recover back to the block.

Most of Lopez’s offense in fact comes as a finisher—whether off cuts, pick and rolls, offensive rebounds, or running the floor in transition. On the season, he’s making 165/277 or just under 60% of his non-post-up attempts around the basket –which is an outstanding rate that already puts him amongst the NBA’s elite big men.

The success that he's had shows that Lopez really understands the game. It's not easy for a player to adjust to a whole new system and find a way to be productive when he's not the first or even second option after being the focal point on every other team he's played on. However, he's managed to do just that, and the way he's thrived and adapted to the offense helped the Nets stay in the playoff hunt.

Part Four: Mid-Range Jump-Shot

Then:

“Possessing range out to college three point line, he was able to open up the floor for his brother Robin with his ability to score from the perimeter. We had the chance to observe Lopez this summer during an open gym session at the LeBron James Skills Academy, where we were surprised to see that he can even shoot the ball with consistency out to the NBA three point line. His capability to stretch the defense and create one on one opportunities for teammates will only help him in the eyes of NBA scouts. ”
Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Pac-10 (Part One: #1-#5) - September 18, 2007

Now:


At the collegiate level, the only time you would see Lopez taking jump-shots was in warm-ups prior to the game. It’s easy to understand why, as he was so much bigger and stronger than his opponents that his coach probably felt he’d be letting his opponents off the hook by allowing his prized big man step out to the perimeter. Still, it wasn’t hard to see that the potential was there, if you actually did get to see Lopez attempt a few jumpers.

Lopez has really stood out in his rookie season with his ability to face up and make jump-shots from the high post. He has a very nice stroke for a big guy, and displays adequate form as he holds the ball high over his head, making him difficult to block. His touch is obviously terrific—not only does he make 82% of his free throws, but he’s converted on 30/63 or 47% of his field goal attempts from 17 to 20 feet, according to Synergy’s quantified player report. He may not always shoot quite that well as the sample size increases, but it’s very evident that he has terrific potential in this area, which will open up the paint significantly for the likes of Devin Harris and Vince Carter to slash to the rim, and force the defense to adjust accordingly.

Part Five: Rebounding/Athleticism

Then:

“Lopez is blessed with excellent physical attributes-- including a legit seven foot body, outstanding wingspan, and above average leaping ability for a center prospect. His frame is not carrying anything close to its maximum weight, as it could stand to gain another 20 pounds or so easily. The big man does a nice job running the floor, often filling the wings in transition and beating opposing centers down the floor for easy buckets.”
Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Pac-10 (Part One: #1-#5) - September 18, 2007

Now:

Lopez is a fundamentally sound player and pays great attention to detail, and this is never more evident than when he is cleaning the glass. He does an outstanding job of boxing out, driving his man away from the basket and keeping him on his back. Establishing the same strong base when boxing out that he does in the paint offensively, he is not afraid to be physical. The toughness he displays often allows him to get a hand on the ball even when he isn't in ideal position to do so.

Lopez's great build doesn't hurt him either –standing over 7-feet tall, with a superb wingspan and weighing in at 260 pounds, he had an NBA body even before his name was called on draft night. Lopez uses his frame extremely well, and this is especially apparent in his rebounding numbers, given the fact that he isn't a great leaper. He stands tall and always pursues the ball with two hands, therefore never getting the ball knocked away or getting stripped by guards coming in from behind. He shows his great hands when rebounding and is often coming down with boards in traffic –a clear sign of a good rebounder. There's definite reason to believe Lopez will be a double-double guy down the road, even if it did not appear that way at all when he first arrived at the college level.

He's currently averaging 8 rebounds per game in just under 30 minutes, which translates to 11 rebounds per 40 pace adjusted –a very impressive stat—and somewhat surprisingly, identical to his numbers as a college sophomore. His work ethic and perseverance also have a lot to do with these numbers. He never gives up on a rebound no matter how out of reach it may be. With more experience and added minutes, Lopez will regularly be among the NBA's top rebounders. On a team that's been looking for the right fit at center for what seems like the last decade, Lopez has to be a breath of fresh air for the Nets.

Lopez is a deceptively good athlete for someone of his size, especially considering his reputation. His athleticism is almost hidden in a way because of his awkwardness on the offensive end and the fact that he won't dazzle anyone with a play or a move. With that said, he's one of the better running big men in the game today, regularly beating opposing big men down the floor thanks in large part to his huge stride-length and great stamina. He's recorded countless follow up dunks this year and has been the recipient of many alley-oops on Nets fast breaks.

Part Four: Defense

Then:

“On the defensive end, Lopez has done a good job this season, showing versatility and a lot of potential as a defender. In man-to-man situations in the post, Lopez plays a strange style of defense, never using a hand or forearm on his opponent, rather keeping his hands outstretched in the air and just using his body to stay in front of his man by moving laterally. This throws many players off, forcing them into travels or offensive fouls, and also allows Lopez to contest anyone who tries to shoot over him, but it also leaves him prone to being backed down when someone with his strength shouldn't be. Laterally, Lopez is definitely above average for a seven-footer, looking competent when forced out on the perimeter, and also doing a good job defending pick-and-rolls with his mobility. He does show some problems reacting to quick moves by agile forwards in the post, though. As a weakside shot blocker, Lopez is very aware and focused, and is solid contesting and blocking shots in the lane in a very controlled manner, not committing foolish fouls.”
NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/25/08- Part Two



Now:

Lopez has been terrific on this end of the floor. He's very active and always in tune to what's going on around him. He currently ranks 5th in the league in blocked shots, with 1.9 per game. While that is an impressive stat, the way Lopez records those blocks is equally impressive; often keeping the ball in play to spark the Nets high powered fast break. He does a great job of staying in his stance for whole possessions as well. He'll often dip down into an athletic position when the ball is on the perimeter and muscle his man out of the paint. He's able to do this and stay out of foul trouble –a truly uncommon characteristic of most young centers in the NBA today. He doesn't leave his feet a lot or over commit, showing good discipline in standing his ground and getting his hands up to alter shots with his giant standing reach.

Despite his average lateral quickness, Lopez does a fairly good job against quicker big guys who like to play away from the basket due in large part to his fundamentals. He keeps one hand up and in his man's face, using his great length to contest shots while leaving a cushion to deny penetration. He shouldn't be left alone often on the perimeter with quicker players, but Lopez can hold his own against many players his size by being smart and not being too aggressive.

Lopez uses that same awareness to make his presence felt as a weak side defender, acting like a wall when guards try to penetrate. At times he can be a little too stiff as he's reluctant to foul, making it easy for players to finish around him. The one thing that can never be questioned about him is his effort. He contests all shots, and even on possessions where he's late to recover and has no chance of blocking the shot, he'll sprint out and do whatever he can to bother the shooter. He also does a nice job hedging out on screens to slow up the opposing guard before rotating back to his man with his hands in the air to deflect any pass coming his way. Despite his lack of lateral quickness, it is clear that he's well-schooled in how to compensate for it on the defensive end.

When defending the block, he works hard to front or three-quarter front his man to make for a difficult post entry pass. When his man does get the ball, he uses his strong upper body to make it difficult for his man to back him in as he bodies up with his chest as he did in college. He’s been somewhat foul prone at times, but should be able to improve in this area as he gains more experience.

Part Five: Intangibles

Then:

“Following a freshman season where Brook Lopez posted good numbers despite coming off back surgery, many were expecting more big things from him this year. So it was obviously disappointing when Lopez missed the first nine games of the season due to academic ineligibility. To Lopez's credit, his response to the situation has been as mature as one can expect from a college sophomore. Lopez has publicly blamed himself for Stanford's early-season loss to Siena, a game in which he was unable to participate. He also called the ineligibility “an embarrassment to me and my family.” Lopez claims the time off has helped him grow, giving him an improved work ethic, which definitely is showing, as his production is up noticeably across the board.”
NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/25/08- Part Two

Now:

When the Nets drafted Lopez, they drafted a high character player with an outstanding pedigree. Although somewhat unusual with his off the court interests (comic books, the Disney franchise) he's very popular with his teammates. His work ethic is obviously top notch, and that is evident by his receptiveness to his coaches and his willingness to learn. Effort is the one constant with him, which has earned him a great deal of playing time very quickly under the highly demanding Lawrence Frank. This is not something you can teach, and with the foundation that Lopez has he will be in the League for a long time. While it will depend greatly on continued improvement and player movement in the future, it is not unfathomable to think that Lopez could sneak onto a few All-Star teams without being his team's first option. Considering his size, the position he plays and where the Nets picked him (shockingly finding him available at 10) he is clearly looking like the biggest steal of the 2008 draft.
 


Feedback for this article may be sent to snadler1@gmail.com .

 

Brook Lopez
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 7' 0"
Weight: 256 lbs.
Birthday: 04/01/1988
26 Years Old
Teams:
High School: San Joaquin Memorial
Previous Team: Nets , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #10 in 2008 Draft
by the Nets
Positions:
Current: C,
NBA: PF/C,
Possible: C
Quick Stats:
16.1 Pts, 6.1 Rebs, 0.8 Asts


Devin Harris
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 170 lbs.
Birthday: 02/27/1983
31 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Wauwatosa East
Previous Team: Mavericks , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #5 in 2004 Draft
by the Wizards
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
9.2 Pts, 2.0 Rebs, 4.0 Asts


Vince Carter
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 7"
Weight: 219 lbs.
Birthday: 01/26/1977
37 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Daytona Beach Mainland
Previous Team: Grizzlies , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #5 in 1998 Draft
by the Warriors
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF
Quick Stats:
6.7 Pts, 2.0 Rebs, 1.2 Asts


LeBron James
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 8"
Weight: 245 lbs.
Birthday: 12/30/1984
29 Years Old
Teams:
High School: St. Vincent-St. Mary
Previous Team: Cavaliers , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #1 in 2003 Draft
by the Cavaliers
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF
Quick Stats:
25.2 Pts, 5.2 Rebs, 7.8 Asts


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