The Case for Brook Lopez as an NBA Eastern Conference All-Star

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIIJanuary 21, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 13:  Brook Lopez #11 of the Brooklyn Nets comes out during intros prior to the game against the Indiana Pacers at the Barclays Center on January 13, 2013 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Oftentimes when the NBA All-Star Game rosters are announced, fan perception takes precedence to actuality. This is an unfortunate truth for those deserving of a spot among the starters, although it does not necessarily mean they will miss out on being All-Star reserves.

Here's the case for Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez to join the Eastern Conference in that regard.

During his first four seasons in the NBA, Lopez developed a reputation as an injury-prone player who did not belong in the conversation regarding elite players. His main problem was his comparatively weak rebounding averages.

A career number of 7.5 boards per game is difficult to defend.

With that being said, Lopez has turned a corner in 2012-13. Although his rebounding numbers remain low, he has been among the most productive centers in the NBA.

According to Moke Hamilton of SNYNets, Lopez and Nets head coach P.J. Carlesimo believes the coaches will take notice of just that.

“Brook should be [an all-star],” Carlesimo said. “If he’s not this year, he’s going to be next year. Hopefully, it will happen this year, it’s in the coach’s hands now, so I feel good about that.”

When asked whether or not he himself agreed with his coach, Lopez was honest. “I definitely feel that I’m at the top,” he said. “I don’t really watch many other teams so I have to take it by when I play them and what I see when I see them, and I definitely think I’m at the top.”

If you don't believe you're the best, why are you playing at all?

Lopez leads all centers at 18.6 points per game and averages a career-best 2.1 blocks per game. With one glance at the advanced statistics, Carlesimo's opinion becomes validated.

Lopez leads all centers in Player Efficiency Rating, Estimated Wins Added and Value Added.

The numbers don't lie in this instance, as Lopez has been one of the best centers in the NBA. For that reason, anything short of an All-Star Game appearance would be criminal.

If the individual feats aren't enough for you, try the fact that Lopez is the driving force behind a 24-16 Nets team.

Brooklyn Nets' MVP

Midway through the 2012-13 NBA regular season, Brook Lopez leads the Brooklyn Nets in scoring, blocks, Player Efficiency Rating, Estimated Wins Added and Value Added. Much like his ranks in the NBA, there isn't a close second.

The conclusion is obvious: Lopez has been the MVP of the Nets.

The proof goes deeper than the individual numbers, as the Nets are a marginally better team when he is in the lineup. In fact, Brooklyn has completely collapsed without Lopez.

Thus far in 2012-13, the Nets are 2-5 when Lopez is not in the rotation. Their average margin of defeat in Lopez's absence is 7.6 points per game.

Their only two victories came against the 15-26 Toronto Raptors and 14-26 Orlando Magic.

As for when he's active, the Nets are 22-11. In that time, they own wins over the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers.

It doesn't end there.

Brooklyn is averaging 98.9 points scored and 91.4 points allowed per 48 minutes when Lopez is on the floor. Those numbers fall to 91.9 points for and 95.3 points against per 48 when Lopez is on the bench.

They're also posting a Net Rating of positive-6.2 with Lopez and negative-3.7 without—a 9.9 point difference. 

With his value established, it is fair to bestow the label of a "franchise player" onto Lopez. With his leadership, the Nets have overcome disturbingly weak seasons by Deron Williams and Joe Johnson to rank fourth in the Eastern Conference.

Williams is shooting 40.5 percent from the floor and Johnson rests at 42.8.

The reason the Nets have overcome such deficiencies by their stars is not so complex. Brooklyn has exceptional depth and Lopez is a legitimate star.

With this being known, how could the NBA not name Lopez to the 2013 Eastern Conference All-Star squad?

The Young Fundamental?

He's no Tim Duncan, but Brook Lopez has become the new "Big Fundamental."

As players such as Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin enter fans hearts via their ability to achieve the athletically extraordinary, Lopez has gone under the radar. A major reason for this truth is his flat-footed style and athletic shortcomings.

Even so, Lopez has overcome a lack of quickness by defeating opponent with his polished fundamentals.

Lopez is as dominant a low-post scorer as you'll find in the NBA today. He has a wide array of post moves and is lethal when he faces up for a mid-range jump shot.

An improved right shoulder hook shot makes him all the more dangerous with his left shoulder dominance.

Furthermore, Lopez has improved significantly as a pick-and-roll defender. Although he lacks the lateral quickness to truly dominate, his footwork appears to improve with each passing game.

He may not blow you away with his physical capabilities, but Lopez is becoming a fundamentals guru. If his world-class production doesn't impress, Lopez's embrace of the lost art of fundamentals should be praised with an All-Star selection.

That is, if the NBA believes players such as Lopez actually exist.

Was Shaq Right?

Still not convinced?

Prior to the 2012-13 NBA regular season, Shaquille O'Neal called Brook Lopez one of the top centers in the NBA. The instant response was that Shaq was out of his mind for such a statement.

According to the numbers, Shaq wasn't wrong.

Lopez leads all centers in scoring, Player Efficiency Rating, Value Added and Estimated Wins Added. Lopez has the second-highest PER for a center since 2007.

Suddenly it becomes a rational question to ask: Is Lopez the NBA's best center?

Statistically speaking, he's at the front of the conversation.

As previously stated, Lopez averages 18.6 points per game. DeMarcus Cousins sits in second place at 17.8. Lopez also ranks fifth in the league in and-one field goals made per game.

It only gets better from there.

On the defensive end, Lopez is averaging 2.1 blocks per game and ranks sixth amongst centers in Defensive Plays Per Game. The concerns about his inconsistent defensive play have been deflated.

Still not enough to sway your vote? Let's continue.

Lopez ranks fourth in the NBA with a Player Efficiency Rating of 25.61. Second among centers who average at least 25 minutes is Anderson Varejao at 22.09.

For those rebounding buffs, Varejao averages 14.4 boards per game and still pales in comparison to Lopez's rating.

Furthermore, Lopez's lead among centers in Estimated Wins Added at 7.2 and in Value Added at 216.6 goes without competition. A distant second in both is Tyson Chandler at 6.8 and 204.2.

In fact, Lopez ranks 10th in the league in EWA and VA. Paired with his Top 5 PER, one thing is perfectly clear.

Lopez has effectively neutralized his overanalyzed rebounding woes by becoming one of the best players in the NBA.

For those who oppose this logic, throw out the use of advanced statistics for any other player you support. If these numbers don't classify Lopez as elite, they shouldn't serve that purpose for anyone else.

Like it or not, Lopez is as elite as they come. He's playing at an unparalleled level among centers and has led his team to postseason legitimacy.

With this in mind, there is only one conclusion to be derived: Lopez should be an Eastern Conference All-Star in 2013.


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