Scaletta’s Summer Top 100 is a ranking of returning NBA players. For a full explanation of our methodology, read our intro.
Brook Lopez played without any injury issues for the second season in a row, and he continued to be the closest thing to a star the Brooklyn Nets have. The once arguably overrated player has faded into obscurity and has become underrated if anything.
There is a short list of players who averaged 30 points and 10 boards per 100 possessions last season, and he’s on it. When you see the company he joins, it’s hard to argue he can’t do something to earn a higher spot. Here are the nine players who reached that 30 and 10 per 100 possessions mark (sorted by Win Shares via Basketball-Reference.com):
- Kevin Durant
- Russell Westbrook
- Kawhi Leonard
- LeBron James
- LaMarcus Aldridge
- Anthony Davis
- Carmelo Anthony
- Brook Lopez
- DeMarcus Cousins
Lopez does a lot of things well, but his contributions are on a losing team. Let’s not kid ourselves. The Nets are not going to be in the playoffs next year. They’ll have a better argument for worst team in the East, but Lopez will be putting up All-Star-caliber numbers in obscurity.
Even though it’s been two years since he had a major injury, it’s hard not to have a bit of hesitancy when it comes to predicting big things from him. He only played five games in 2011-12 and just 17 two years later. He’s safe with minutes and touches. I mean, who’s going to take them from him? The Nets aren’t trading him because of the “Brook-Lin” pun. And who goes through all the trouble to make a pun like that possible just to ruin it with a trade?
Lopez’s only real concern here is injury.
Kevin Pelton scouted Lopez at the start of last season:
When healthy, Lopez is one of the league’s most skilled offensive centers. He’s a threat with his back to the basket and is exceptionally accurate using a turnaround push shot. Lopez will even use the push shot as something of a floater from the perimeter. A set shooter, he’s a threat on the pick-and-pop, with range to about 20 feet. (Lopez did launch 10 3-pointers last season, more than his previous career to date, but made just one, his first in an NBA game.) Lopez also sets himself apart from other centers with his free throw shooting (81.4 percent last season), which bolsters his efficiency.
Lopez continued to shine posting up his opponent, scoring 426 points last year, second only to LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored four more points in one more game, according to NBA.com. So it’s quite a reasonable argument that Lopez is the best post-up player in the game today. Lopez also scored 315 points as the roll man in the pick-and-roll, which was fourth-best in the league. And he continued to hit his freebies, making him the rare big man you can go to late in games.
Lopez is a better defender than you might think. Opponents within six feet of the basket shot 8.3 percent below their season average when he was the closest defender, per SportVU tracking data. Overall they were -2.3 percent.
He’s a little slow and not a leaper, so opponents shot 5.4 percent better on threes and 2.6 percent better when they were at least 15 feet away. He’s not the new-age perimeter center who is going to wreak havoc on Stephen Curry. But he’s decent enough guarding the bucket. Seth Partnow’s rim protection numbers at Nylon Calculus have him saving .77 points per game last season.
Lopez is also a decent shot-blocker, averaging about 2.0 blocks per game over the last four years. And while his defensive rebounding isn’t great, it’s worth mentioning that the Nets’ defensive rebounding percentage rose nearly four percent while he was on the court, in part because he’s very good at boxing out.
His Defensive Real Plus-Minus is 2.18, which is 22nd among 70 centers.
He’s not a threat to make the All-Defensive team, but he’s better than a lot of fans seem to give him credit for.