Paying big dividends: Brook Lopez is Looking Like One of the NBA’s Most Underrated Pickups of the Off-season
Space and pace. That’s what the modern NBA is all about. For years, the Bucks have struggled to adapt to this style that has taken the league by storm. Sure, a great deal of that was due to the beliefs of our former head coach, but the team also lacked the three-point threats to make the system work. This year, we’re seeing a floor-stretching offensive juggernaut, made possible in no small part by off-season pickup Brook Lopez.
It’s no secret that the Bucks have struggled to get any meaningful contributions from the center position over the past few years, but Lopez is already showing that the team won’t have that problem this season. Over the first few games, the big man is averaging 12.4 PPG and shooting a blazing 38.6 percent from three-point land. Granted, he still isn’t a great rebounder (nor has he ever been confused with one), but in the Bucks scheme encourages players to push the ball up court on missed shots, meaning there’s a case to be made for allowing Giannis, Middleton, Bledsoe and Brogdon to run to loose balls and start the break the same way the Thunder do with Russell Westbrook.
Evolving the Offense
Did we mention Lopez is knocking down 38.6 percent of his triples? Yes. we did. But that cannot be overstated, especially when he is draining more than two per night.
Lopez’s ability to stretch the floor is something Bucks have been sorely missing in previous seasons, especially with a superstar who isn’t much of a three-point threat. His mere presence allows Giannis more room to operate in the paint and removes a help defender when he chooses to drive. It doesn’t show up in the box score, but providing your best player more room to operate is one of the most valuable contributions a teammate can make.
In addition to spacing the floor, Lopez gives the Bucks something else they’ve been missing: a solid screen-setter. He uses his incredibly large, muscular frame to lay a body on opposing defenders, forcing them fight through the pick, or more likely, get hung up, leading to mismatches and open shooters.
A Fantastic Fit
Lopez wasn’t a highly sought after free agent, but he has found a place in Mike Budenholzer’s system that allows him to maximize his strengths and the early returns have been overwhelmingly positive.
His ability to space the floor and set effective screens has helped the offensive scheme and allowed Giannis to take his game to next level, establishing himself as a serious contender to win MVP. Not bad for a guy who is playing for the mid-level exception.