Running the floor: Lopez hustles down the floor and beats his man down the court probably around once per game, which is the easiest way for a big man to steal a bucket. Running the floor consistently not only helps Lopez, but also his team. With shooters like Williams and Johnson, having Lopez run hard means that the defense must first react to the big man in the middle, then worry about the outside shooters. When the Nets do get transition opportunities – which don’t happen all that often – it would help their cause to use this to their advantage.
Improved strength: At the end of the pregame telecast last night, YES flashed a graphic that can be summed up by this: “When Brook was 20 he was 7-0 and weighed 265 pounds. At 24, he’s 7-0 and weighs 281 pounds.” The addition of strength and mass to his frame has helped him immensely. He can attribute his growth in this area to sitting out last season, as he only played in five games. “I feel like I’ve been in more of shape and that I’m recovering quicker,” said Lopez. “[They’ve] done a good job of keeping me in the weight room, staying on me and helping me improve.”
Establishing position: Thanks to the weight along with his overall awareness, basketball IQ and movement between the boxes and along the baselines, Lopez is very effective at establishing position just above the block (the ideal spot for a big man to operate) and in the paint. He also hides slyly along the baseline and waits for drop-off passes, as well. Still, he needs to be even more dominant and assertive when it comes to getting position where he wants it; to become a true go-to player, he has to be able to establish low post position whenever he wants, not just sometimes.
Hook shots / touch around rim: “I’m going to go with Robin Lopez and Andrew Bynum because they play with their back to the basket,” Shaquille O’Neal famously said earlier this year on TNT’s Inside The NBA. (Yes, Robin was later corrected to Brook.) Dwight Howard took offense to this statement, but there’s no doubt that O’Neal was right: Lopez has touch around the rim and can operate facing the hoop or with his back to the basket with equal ease.
Use of both hands / pump fakes: Lopez doesn’t mind finishing with his left or his right hand in traffic. He’s good with either hand, although he does have much better touch with his dominant right hand. Lopez also does a solid job of faking to get other bigs off the ground, so he can draw the foul and get to the line.
Shooting ability: I sat at courtside and watched Lopez go through a pregame shooting routine; I’d like to say he got up at least 150 shots from around the perimeter, many from a few steps inside the 3-point arc. Most 7-foot centers with post ability cannot shoot with the consistency Lopez does. He might get no lift on his jumper (literally, none) but his set shot catches defenders off guard and has proven to be a somewhat reliable feature to his game. According to HoopData.com, he hits 1.6 of 4.1 shots (39%) from 10-23 feet away.
Pick-&-Pop / Pick-&-Roll: Lopez is utilized often in these situations for various reasons. He’s good in the high post because doesn’t rush decisions, is an OK passer and the defense has to respect his mid-range game. Using Lopez in P&R situations forces teams to guard the ballhandler, which can be Johnson, Williams, C.J. Watson or MarShon Brooks, all capable jump shooters. When the center guarding Lopez is put in these situations, does he guard the player off the dribble for a second to make sure he doesn’t get the jumper off, or does he stay with Lopez to make sure he isn’t open for a jumper or hook in the middle of the paint? How the defense guards this is paramount to the Nets’ offensive success because Lopez has become a vital part of the Nets and takes attention off his teammates.
Rebounding / nose for ball: “He would have even more rebounds if it weren’t for Kris and Reggie,” coach P.J. Carlesimo said. Indeed, Lopez’s effort as a rebounder has improved a lot. Although he has averaged higher numbers (8.1 as a rookie, 8.6 as a sophomore), the effort he is playing with is much improved; he is carving out space for his teammates to corral rebounds on a more regular basis. His 7.1 rebounds isn’t dominant for a center, but he’s averaging 2.8 offensive boards, as many as Serge Ibaka and slightly better than Evans. On Tuesday night against the Lakers, he simply outworked Pau Gasol for a rebound that he tapped to himself despite Gasol having interior position, which brings us to his…