When the Lakers traded Timofey Mozgov to Brooklyn for Brook Lopez, after the hallelujah chorus got over themselves and rational thought prevailed, the trade was penciled in as an upgrade. Similar to Cleveland, Mozgov didn’t fit the Lakers style. The Lakers want to run and Mozgov was plodding and slow in his one year with the team that saw him benched for much of the second half. Mozgov is more suited for a half court set with skilled wings who have a half court game and jump shot skills. Even then, he’s not going to produce at high levels. He can’t defend explosive big men who step out and drain the three or who put the ball on the floor, dribble, stop and finish at the rim. His game doesn’t really impact in a quick, athletic league. With that as evidence, it made sense, the Lakers acquisition of Brook Lopez which felt like a steal. Getting rid of your irrelevant parts for someone else’s is always spun as you won and they lost, particularly when the player you are getting just had a year scoring 20 points a game.
Last season with Brooklyn, Brook Lopez added the three point shot to his game which spaced the floor for the Nets whose best finisher was Jeremy Lin. Changing addresses with a fast paced offense and rookie Lonzo Ball, who could legitimize Lopez’s pick and roll game, plus find him on the perimeter, was supposed to open up lanes for Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle. Lopez’s scoring would fill a hole the Lakers haven’t had filled since Andrew Bynum left.
The Lakers center(s) after Bynum was traded: Dwight Howard, who has since been on three teams after his L.A. baptism by fire burned him up. Jordan Hill, a fan fave no longer drawing a NBA check. Roy Hibbert, a stiff who could barely move and is not in the NBA anymore. Timofey Mozgov. (To mention Pau Gasol with this group of duds is blasphemous).
Brook Lopez was an upgrade but that wasn’t saying much.
One quarter into the season, the Brook Lopez the Lakers wanted is not the Brook Lopez they have. First, what the Lakers knew.
Lopez isn’t physical. He gets pushed around by stronger, bigger, tougher players. Proof of that is his rebounding. He’s seven feet tall and has never averaged 10 rebounds a game. This season Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Larry Nance Jr., Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram average more rebounds than Lopez’s anemic 4.5 a game. Basically everyone who matters except Jordan Clarkson grabs more boards than Lopez.
This year, Lopez is posting career lows in field goal percentage, three point percentage, offensive rebounding and his lowest scoring numbers since his rookie year. His defense is very strong but he is playing like James Harden. 60% of his shots are threes or at the rim. That’s a recipe for failure because Lopez is so easy to defend. Let him jack up all those threes and laugh while he misses- he’s only making 30% of them. He’s out of rebounding range when he’s on the perimeter. The Steph Currys of the world salivate when Lopez or other bigs try to guard him. It is what they want, big vs. small.
Brook Lopez is on an expiring contract and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Lakers trade him before the deadline so at year’s end they won’t have to renounce his rights. But practically, is he giving them more than Mozgov did last year?
Yes. Draw. No. No. Yes. Yes.
- Scoring: +6 points. 13.4 for Lopez. 7.4 for Mozgov.
- Rebounding: Even. 4.5 for Lopez this year. 4.9 rebounds for Mozgov.
- Efficiency: -7. 44% for Lopez, 51% for Mozgov.
- Offensive Rating: -2. Mozgov 106. Lopez 104.
- Defensive Rating. +8. Lopez 103. Mozgov 111.
- Real Plus-Minus (Centers): +47. Lopez 19th among centers. Mozgov 66th (out of 69).
The real point last summer was to get rid of Timofey Mozgov’s ridiculous contract and if it meant adding in D’Angelo Russell as a sweetner than that is what the Lakers had to do.
The Lakers lead the league in Points in the Paint. Lopez is responsible for 7.16 of those points. Brandon Ingram is responsible for 7.89 points. Julius Randle is responsible for 8.74 points in the paint. Kyle Kuzma is responsible for 8.9 points in the paint.
Of the Lakers who play 20 minutes or more only Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jordan Clarkson have less points in the paint than Brook Lopez.
On the surface, the argument is always about the new NBA. But not really. Joel Embiid, DeMarcus Cousins, Karl-Anthony Towns are exhibits of what big men with versatility and inside-outside game can do for their individual game and their team. At this stage in his career, Lopez’s game is simplistic. He’s going to jack up a lot of threes and some nights they go in and some nights not. He’s not worth much in grabbing rebounds and exerting his will. He’ll block shots here and there. You can’t feed Lopez a steady diet down low. Bigger centers can push him off the block. He’s all finesse. Hit or miss.
Lately he’s miss, 0-10 from three the last four games with scoring of 4 points, 4 points, 5 points and 6 points. He is functional for rebuilding. Yes, it’s worth it to watch him chuck and brick. But for a contender? Brook Lopez fails the big man test.