Name: Brook Lopez
Height: 7-foot | Weight: 275-pounds
Age: 25 | Years in the NBA: 5
Contract: $47.2 million over three years including 3rd year player option
2012/13 Stats: 23 PTS, 8.2 TRB, 2.5 BLK per 36 minutes, 52.1 eFG%
OUTLOOK: The big emphasis during the preseason has been on the newly acquired players, but in reality they are older and not in their primes. That’s fine though as the Nets have a core built around Deron Williams and Brook Lopez.
Yes, Lopez, after D-Will, is arguably the second most important player on the Nets this season. This is the same guy that sat out nearly all of the 2011-12 season with a foot injury and sat quietly as rumors about a trade for Dwight Howard swirled around this team for years. He broke out last year though, made his first All-Star team, and needs to take an even bigger role this season for this team to be successful.
THE FOOT: The big question mark is how the foot holds up. Lopez missed all but five games in 2011-12 with two different foot injuries. It only caused him minor problems last season, but it was something that the team paid attention to throughout the year and, of course, after the season ended he had to have surgery again to fix a bent screw. Hopefully it won’t be a problem this season, Lopez said he doesn’t expect it to, but we won’t know for sure until he actually gets through the season.
ARRIVAL OF GARNETT: If the foot isn’t an issue this could be a big year for Lopez. The biggest change for him this year is the arrival of Kevin Garnett. Paired with Reggie Evans, Lopez will always have a four playing next to him that can take care of the bulk of the rebounding duties. Intangibly, KG’s arrival will hopefully toughen up Lopez, who was part of the team being soft last year. KG brings intensity and helps with motivation. Playing next to Lopez, the thought is that he should have a positive impact on him.
DEFENSE: Defense is going to be one thing that people expect KG to help Lopez with. He was more assertive and effective last season compared to past years. His total rebounding improved from the 2010-11 season to a respectable 8.2 per 36 minutes. He brought more assertiveness though as he set a career high in blocks at 2.5 per 36 minutes and overall his presence was stronger. In 2010-11 the Nets were better defensively when he was off the court by 5.1 points per 100 possessions. Last year, the Nets were better with him on the court by 2.3 points per 100 possessions.
THE D-WILL FACTOR: I also feel like if Deron Williams can get through his ankle injury and have a more productive year than he did last year then it could be beneficial to Lopez. They played very well last year and D-Will was a huge part of Lopez’s breakout season. Now teamed up with new head coach Jason Kidd, who has preached much more ball movement, and the D-Will/Lopez pairing should be even more effective.
THE BLATCHE FACTOR: Lopez and Andray Blatche didn’t play at the same time a whole lot last season, but so far in the preseason J-Kidd has tried it a few times and seems to like the pairing. It gives the Nets a lot of size and both are effective scorers. This pairing will be something to keep an eye on as it has the potential to be exciting.
PREDICTION: Things are in place for this team and Lopez is setup to lead them. His health is by far the biggest issue and if he can put that behind him then he’s primed for a big year. I expect his numbers to at least be as good as they were last year and they could be much better depending on his health, D-Will’s health, and the health of supporting bigs like KG, Evans, and Andray Blatche.