A large number of Blazer fans are gushing over the production of our new starting center.
And rightfully so.
Seriously, how did we get Lopez for so cheap?
'Tis the season to be jolly
Ball don't lie!by SlimSteve
ROLO is becoming when of my favorite guys on this team. Great character guy too.by BRoyInThe4th
Might need to get a Lopez jersey as my next Blazer jersey purchase
What a dude.by ryanhasler
RoLo is the best
(All from the first half of the comments from tonight's recap by Timmay!).
One of my favorite facts about Robin Lopez is that he is only 25 years old, and about to enter the prime of his career.
But, would these same fans be attempting to trade Robin Lopez if he was still in his first 4 seasons?
I mean, it took 4 years of mediocre play by Robin Lopez before he turned into the animal that we see on the court today.
Lopez came into the league as a 20 year old kid, and required 4 years to bulk up and find his way in the NBA.
Leonard also came into the league as a 20 year old kid, but many fans here want to trade him and call him a bust. I've read hundreds of comments talking about how we need to cut loose of Leonard as he'll never amount to anything. BUST! BUST! BUST! yada yada yada.
But, it appears to me that this is the same mindset that governs the NY Knicks, and now Brooklyn Nets, franchises. If the guy doesn't have a marketable name, and doesn't have previous proven stats, then we MUST trade him NOW.
Developing young players isn't even a consideration. No offense, but this is the end result.
So, I wanted to look at how Robin Lopez and Meyers Leonard stacked up to each other after a possible 104 games (82 games in their rookie years, and 22 games into their sophomore years).
The numbers aren't all that different. While Lopez has the higher block numbers, Leonard actually has the more impressive rebounding numbers (our main complaint against Leonard).
Leonard obviously has the advantage in free throw shooting and assist numbers, which you would expect from a former high school point guard.
Leonard also has the higher PER, win shares, and win shares per 48 minutes over Lopez.
Previously, I did a comparison of Meyers Leonard's rookie season with the current star centers of the league.
There were 2 key points:
(1) Can you look at these rookie seasons for Tyson Chandler, Chris Kaman, Omer Asik, and Meyers Leonard and match them up correctly?
(2) That many centers in this league don't get the opportunity to play, as they usually require 2-4 seasons before they are able to physically matchup with other centers in this league:
Samuel Dalembert(aged 20-21) played a combined 177 min his first 2 seasons.
Nazr Mohammed(aged 21/22) played a combined 311 min his first 2 seasons.
Kendrick Perkins(aged 19/20) played a combined 583 min his first 2 seasons.
We honestly shouldn't be expecting Leonard to be playing much more than mop up duty the first couple seasons.
Yes, Meyers Leonard got beat-up down low last year. That is expect.
Yes, his rebounding numbers were quite bad. And he wasn't a physical presence. These are both true.
Yes, Joel Freeland beat out Meyers Leonard for the backup center spot. Would you expect anything else from a 8 year professional?
But again, I want to point out that Meyers Leonard was a point guard for his high school team before he hit his growth spurt ~5 years ago.
Leonard is just 21 years old, and still a year or two away from becoming physically able to play with the big boys: the Marc Gasols, the Roy Hibberts, the Dwight Howards, the Tyson Chandlers, etc. It would really suck if we traded him before we see his true potential.
Now, there are some that think that winning now, explicitly means not developing young talent (I believe the Knicks, Nets and Lakers are all calling).
I believe we can do both. As the 18-4 record indicates, the Blazers are doing quite alright without needing another proven marketable-named big man.
And frankly, I really like Robin Lopez as our starting center, and don't want to see him relegated to the bench.
Our window is just now beginning to open; and honestly, it's not entirely clear that it is even opened yet.
The Blazers have positioned themselves so that everyone on the roster is coming back next season, with the possible exceptions of Mo Williams(player option), Will Barton(team option), and Earl Watson. The Blazers will not have any draft pick this year, but will have their full mid-level exception(4yr/$22m) to bolster their roster. Lets show some patience, find out if we have any holes if/when we make the playoffs this year, and use our mid-level exception to plug the hole.
Hopefully the window is open (or will shortly be opening) and will stay open for the next several seasons.
As I said earlier, Robin Lopez is 25 and about to enter the prime of his career; Leonard is 4 years younger, and should be given the opportunity to develop his body into a physically domineering NBA center.
This is just a subtle plea for some patience with our young Center of the Future, Meyers Leonard.