Remember when the Nets went 12-70 back in 2010? Brook Lopez does. What about when they advanced to the second round of the playoffs in 2014 after beating Toronto in seven games? He remembers that, too. The 28-year-old seven-footer has seen all sides of the franchise in his short time there, and now his young teammates will look to him for guidance.
He may not be considered a veteran to guys across the league, but Brook Lopez will have that role this upcoming season with Brooklyn. He’s only 28 and has suited up 487 games as a pro, but with the way their 2016-17 roster is constructed, Lopez is the third most-tenured player with eight years of experience. Lopez has seen about everything a basketball player can see: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Furthermore, he’s had the opportunity to play alongside and learn from future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
Lopez, along with Luis Scola and Randy Foye, is now the leader of this young team, and Lopez’s leadership is more valuable than anyone else’s. Despite all the turmoil that the organization has experienced over the years, Lopez has stayed consistent with his play and has served as Brooklyn’s anchor on both the offensive and defensive sides of the floor.
When it comes to playing the post, few are better on the block than Lopez, and the team can expect anywhere from 18-21 points on a given night. He looks awkward at times, but a myriad of up-and-under moves, fadeaways, and mid-range jumpers give Lopez all of his effectiveness. His footwork is great as well, and, despite the Nets having a ton of guards and wings on their roster, Lopez can still be a great teacher.
Chris McCollough and Justin Hamilton are two guys who can learn a lot from Lopez as they are still very young. When McCollough was getting time at the end of last year, he showed flashes of potential as a shooter (38 percent from three) and put his incredible athleticism on display night in and night out. His game inside the arc, however, still needs work. Learning a couple of post moves from one of the league’s best would exponentially improve McCollough’s game and help strengthen him as a player. The same goes for Hamilton, who’s already a decent offensive player in his own right. But there’s always room to get better.
For the rest of the young guys, though, it needs to go way beyond offense. As the defensive rock for the team, it is crucial for Lopez to work with the young guys–all of them, not just forwards–and drill defensive principles into them until they’re blue in the face. All of them have the chance to be stellar offensive players, but bad defensive teams don’t get very far.
It’s imperative for Lopez to teach rookies and sophomores the benefits of effective communication, while also teaching them proper technique for low post defense and how to rotate effectively without overplaying and leaving holes open.
Not only has Brook seen the evolution of his franchise, but he’s also seen the game evolve, too. When he was young, small-ball lineups, spread pick-and-roll, and volume three-point shooting wasn’t as prevalent as they are now, and Lopez has been able to keep up with the changes.
For someone who isn’t the most athletic big, Lopez is one of the more underrated rim protectors in the game. Opponents shoot just 45.6 percent from the field when guarded by Lopez; for comparison, DeAndre Jordan‘s defensive field goal percentage is 43.4 according to NBA.com.
Then, of course, there’s his presence in the locker room. It’s going to be a rough season for the Nets, there’s no doubt about it, and Lopez is going to be huge in not letting spirits get too low during a losing streak or too high during a winning streak–especially when dealing with young players who haven’t yet mastered controlling their emotions.