So when the Blazers acquired RoLo this past summer, I was tentatively optimistic about his impact. My general thought was, upgrade to true center, but certainly not elite. Now 8 games into the season, having been to 3 home games and watched each of the other games, my opinion has changed.
Lopez has never wowed me with stats. Since that is a major piece of evaluating other team's talent (since you can't watch every game, this is natural), I assumed Robin had a low impact on the game, and certainly didn't feel threatened by his presence on the court.
In watching him with the Blazers, I have recognized that Lopez is interested more in winning than stats. He consistently boxes out his man with a great seal leaving the rebound available for his teammates. Has anyone noticed Wes, Dame, and Nic's rebounding numbers vs career:
Per 36 Minutes
Per 36 Minutes
Per 36 Minutes
We have praised Freeland for getting a hand on nearly every rebound available this season, which helps keep it alive and creates opportunities for other Blazers. You see this happen while Freeland is battling two or three guys. If one of those guys decides to box Freeland out of the play, the other two almost assuredly get that ball. This is what Lopez does. (Caveat - I do think that the Blazers wing players are doing a better job of pursuing rebounds as well, but which came first, the motivation to do so, or the realization that the opportunities for rebounds come easier when playing with Lopez and Freeland?)
Meanwhile Aldridge's numbers are holding and Lopez himself is average around 8.8 per 36 minutes. Lopez' PER numbers are low because he is giving the stats that he is responsible for to his teammates.
Defense - Aside from the Rockets game (and even that game while Lopez was on the floor), Robin has given the Blazers a major presence on D. He guards his men straight up nearly every time, and while some may criticize his lateral quickness, is that really a trait we expect from a center? How many centers make you think of lateral quickness when mentioned? That is really more of a wing type defender trait. What you want from your post/paint defender is length, technique, size (weight/strength), and ability to defend/alter shot without fouling. Lopez is no slouch in those categories. Here is a table from NBA.com's advanced stats page that shows his rim protection. The table below shows how often Lopez is taking the load of interior defense (sorted by FGA at the rim).
I had a really hard time getting this table to link in a neat-looking way, I ended up having to move the data to excel. Here is the link to the source.
|Player||GP||MIN per game||STL per game||BLK per game||Total BLK||Opp FGM at Rim per game||Opp FGA at Rim per game||Opp FGP at Rim|
|Spencer Hawes (PHI)||9||33.4||0.7||2||18||5.6||12||46.30%|
|Dwight Howard (HOU)||9||36.9||0.6||2.3||21||5.9||11.8||50.00%|
|Marcin Gortat (WAS)||8||33.4||0.6||2||16||7.4||11.8||62.80%|
|Miles Plumlee (PHX)||8||31.1||0.5||2.1||17||4.4||11||39.80%|
|Roy Hibbert (IND)||8||29.6||0.4||4.4||35||3.4||10||33.80%|
|Robin Lopez (POR)||8||29.9||0.6||1.4||11||4.6||9.8||47.40%|
|Derrick Favors (UTA)||9||33.9||1.3||1.7||15||4.7||9.3||50.00%|
|Kevin Love (MIN)||9||36.1||0.6||0.3||3||5.3||9.3||57.10%|
|Tyson Chandler (NYK)||4||26.1||1||2.5||10||3.8||9.3||40.50%|
|Brook Lopez (BKN)||7||29.8||0.7||2.7||19||2.9||9||31.70%|
Re-sorted by FG% at the rim, Lopez falls to 11th in the league. (By the way, Aldridge comes in at 55.90% on 7.4 attempts per game, Hickson comes in at 54.5% on 4.7 attempts per game).
My point here is there are many notable big men that are thought to be really great defensively that fall below Lopez as far as rim protection (Opp FG% at the rim). The few that stand out to me are: Howard, Ibaka, Varejao, and Dalembert. Here is a link to the stats sorted by opp FG%.
Perhaps most surprisingly, Lopez rates the highest of any Blazer in offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions when he is on the floor). Link. (worth checking out and playing around with). This stat should actually be taken very lightly as Blazers starters will rank very close to each other until more games are played, but still interesting. My bet is that his net impact (NetRtg) continues to hold as high for the Blazers.
My impetus for this post is to point out Lopez' unsung contributions to a fan base that as much as any other appreciates big men big men who work hard, hustle, battle every night, and ask for nothing except the same from their teammates. We have scoring on this team...we don't need a fifth starter who can do that. What we needed were quality role players and glue guys who make everyone else better. Lopez does that.
Closing off topic thought not worth an entire post: Memphis has looked terrible this year. How much of that was the loss of Lionel Hollins. Big shame that he couldn't join the team that retired his number as an assistant...still time? What he did for the Grizzlies defense could be huge for the Blazers...