The Case For — Brook Lopez

Coming back from injuries is always an iffy proposition, as we discussed on the latest Red Rock Podcast.¬†The Brooklyn Nets’ cornerstone, Brook Lopez, unfortunately¬†suffered another broken bone in his foot last season and will making his second comeback attempt from that injury in the past two years. It’s really a shame, because Lopez is, in my opinion, the best offensive centre in the league and injuries have robbed us in recent times of seeing him work down on the block.

Brook LopezBut as with all of the guys coming back from injuries, we keep our collective fingers crossed that the worst is behind them. Recently, ESPN reported that Lopez is fully recovered from his foot injury and is now just looking to get himself into shape before training camp begins in October.

As bad as the injuries have been for Lopez, he hasn’t had as star-crossed as a career as many would believe. Sure he missed 65 last games season and 61 games in 2011-12, but in the other four seasons of his career, Lopez has missed a grand total of eight games — and all of those came in 2012-12. So, for the first three seasons on Lopez’s career, he played all 82 games. That’s not to say he’s an iron man or has bones made of chalk, the truth lies somewhere in between, but we shouldn’t be quick to write off the man from Stanford as injury-prone. Having a foot injury as a seven-footer is never a good thing, but when he returned last time from the injury, he was basically his old self and that’s what I’m hoping for again this season.

Last season before the injury, Lopez was the dominant fantasy centre. Just take a look at the numbers he put up in those 17 games.

Brook Lopez 31 20.7 0.0 6.0 0.9 0.5 1.8 13.5 56.3 6.8 81.7 1.6 12

I bet you didn’t realise Lopez was the 12th ranked player in per-game numbers last year, did you? Well, that’s just how well he was playing.

So why did I feel compelled to write “The Case For” for Lopez? I think people are sleeping on him. In the experts mock draft (which I will write about once it’s complete), Lopez went with pick 48, the last pick in the fourth round and I feel that’s way too low. He went behind guys like Bradley Beal, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Pau Gasol, and Jeff Teague.

The Nets are Lopez’s team now. Paul Pierce is gone. Kevin Garnett is a shadow (is there something less impactful than a shadow) of his former self, Deron Williams appears that he has forgotten how to play basketball and Joe Johnson was the most ridiculed All-Star selection recent memory. Lopez is far and away the best player here and if he can keep himself healthy, he should find himself back in the All-Star game soon and be a fixture in the top 30 of fantasy rankings.

Lopez is downgraded by many for his sub par rebounding for a centre, and that’s true to an extent. His best rebounding season was 8.6 per game in 2009-10 and has averaged just 6.5 boards per game in the last two seasons and that’s not the sort of numbers that we get from Al Jefferson or Andre Drummond or Dwight Howard. But Lopez has those guys covered in other areas. He has great block numbers, but his big area of strength is the percentages. For a centre to hit high 70’s-low 80’s on a regular basis is invaluable and is also stellar from the field. If you are building a team around percentages, Lopez is a great big man option and I can’t wait to see him out on the court again.

Here are the numbers I project Lopez to have this coming season. With the Nets now coached by former Memphis Grizzlies’ coach Lionel Hollins, I’ve factored in Memphis’ pace of play from 2012-13, as well as the minutes Hollins gave Marc Gasol in his seasons running the show down in Tennessee.

Brook Lopez 33 22.1 0.0 7.3 1.1 0.5 2.1 15.6 53.2 6.8 80.3 1.9

If Lopez was to achieve these numbers, it’s puts him right on the border of a first round pick. In saying that, you don’t want to pick him there, but given the general feeling about Lopez, grabbing him in the third round or early fourth, seems like a great place to target him.

Here’s hoping his foot holds up.

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