One of the most intriguing on-court storylines surrounding the Brooklyn Nets is Brook Lopez’s three-point potential.
During the past couple of seasons, there has been chatter about him making the long ball a regular staple of his arsenal. He’s dabbled beyond the arc a little bit recently, hitting 1-of-10 from distance in 2014-15.
Will this be the year Lopez truly incorporates triples into his nightly repertoire? And if so, is it a wise move?
Everyone who’s watched Lopez knows he has a smooth shooting touch and is a reliable mid-range threat. Whenever he’s stepped out a little farther and hoisted a rare three-pointer, it’s fueled fans’ desire to see more long balls.
A silky smooth three-pointer during Brooklyn’s preseason loss against Turkish club Fenerbahce Ulker is Lopez’s latest tease.
While Lopez isn’t yearning to fire away nonstop, it seems like he’s going to make a point to shoot from downtown more frequently.
Brook Lopez reaffirmed he's going to be a more willing three-point shooter this year.
— devin kharpertian (@uuords) October 5, 2015
Coach Lionel Hollins told Tim Bontemps of the New York Post that although he won’t be proactively dialing up three-point plays for Lopez, he’s open to the big fella launching triples within the flow of the game.
“…If he’s out there and it happens, it happens,” said Hollins.
Is this venture a worthwhile or prudent one for Lopez, and most importantly, for the Nets?
Even if he’s confident, Lopez will be out of his comfort zone early on during this quest, flinging shots that he’s not accustomed to taking in games. Fred Katz of Fox Sports explained the type of three-point opportunities Lopez will encounter:
Remember, Lopez won’t be taking his threes from the corner (he attempted a few of those last year). Those might be the easier and closer jumpers than the ones from the wing, but it doesn’t make sense spatially to stash your best inside presence on the side. Realistically, the Lopez threes would come in pick-and-pop situations…Those are a little tougher to make. Your momentum is carrying you places that it’s not when you’re simply standing and waiting for a catch-and-shoot opportunity.
If Lopez continues to practice threes regularly and posts 0.8 to 1.2 attempts per game, it’s safe to say he’ll reach a reasonably efficient conversion rate within a few weeks or months.
He’s just 1-of-17 for his career, including the aforementioned 1-of-10 last year. But someone with such a seamless shooting motion should be able to shoot around 30 percent from distance within a year or two, provided he finds a rhythm and takes regular attempts. Lopez could perhaps drill somewhere between 32 and 36 percent in the long term.
Lopez has hit 42 percent of his field goals between 16 feet and the three-point line since 2011, so it’s not a stretch to think he can extend his range a little further. Here’s a reminder of how quick and fluid his delivery is:
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) June 15, 2015
Naturally, there are questions about whether the uptick in triples will hurt other aspects of his game, particularly his low-post play and offensive rebounding.
If he keeps the volume modest, it shouldn’t adversely affect Brooklyn’s at-rim effectiveness. As David Vertsberger of ESPN Truehoop’s Brooklyn’s Finest explains, Lopez wouldn’t be adding a massive amount of additional outside shots. Rather, he’d be turning a huge portion of the near-three-pointers he used to take into actual three-pointers:
There’s also the offensive rebounding factor, which is a trade-off for bigs stepping out behind the arc. This isn’t much of a factor though, given the Nets are already a poor offensive rebounding team (23rd in the league) and the idea is Lopez would be taking a step back on his long twos, not shooting more jumpers in general.
When it comes to lineups and frontcourt pairings, Hollins should be able to make this work with several combinations.
In most cases, Lopez will be playing alongside someone who’s capable of rolling to the rim and crashing the boards while he shoots. Thaddeus Young, Thomas Robinson and Willie Reed are all players capable of drawing defensive attention while diving to the rim and making their presence felt in the paint. Lopez could step out more frequently than usual alongside Robinson and Reed, in particular because they do most of their work near the basket anyway.
The bump in three-point activity may not begin wonderfully for Lopez, as he’ll have to pick his spots and get a feel for where he’s most effective. And although it won’t be easy initially, the venture should ultimately be a healthy one for him and the squad, as long as he keeps his chucking within reason.
Let’s hope for the Nets’ sake that Monday’s picturesque trifecta was the first of dozens for Lopez in 2015-16.