Robin Lopez Acquisition Displays Trail Blazers' Lack of Trust in Current Big Men
According to Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports, the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings have agreed to a three-team deal. Notable names changing cities include Tyreke Evans to New Orleans, Greivis Vasquez to Sacramento and Robin Lopez to Portland.
By trading for Lopez, the Trail Blazers have displayed their lack of trust in their current big men.
The first reported complete terms of the deal see the Pelicans receive Evans and Jeff Withey, Sacramento take Vasquez and two second-round draft choices and Portland acquire Lopez and Terrel Harris. Both of the second rounders come from the Trail Blazers.
To sum that up, the Trail Blazers just traded Withey and two second-round draft choices for Lopez and Harris.
Portland will send Jeff Withey to Pelicans as part of 3-team deal, league source tells Y!— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 4, 2013
A very steep price for a career role player.
Whether right or wrong, the deal has been reported and the Trail Blazers' future has thus been defined. Rather than develop one of the most promising rosters in the NBA over time, Portland appears to be desperate to win right now.
This trade simply displays how skeptical the Blazers are of their current big men.
Profiling Robin Lopez
For those unfamiliar, Robin Lopez is a 7'0", 255-pound center with five years of NBA experience and 176 starts under his belt. In that time, he's averaged 17.4 minutes of action and posted 7.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.0 block per game.
In 2012-13, he posted career-best numbers of 11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 26.0 minutes.
Those may not be elite numbers, but Lopez is an efficient player that shot 53.4 percent from the field and 77.8 percent from the free throw line. Posting a Player Efficiency Rating of 18.98 should be evidence of his efficiency for those number crunchers out there.
If that's not enough, Lopez is one of the more proficient pick-and-roll scorers in the NBA and a strong defensive presence.
Synergy Sports reports that Lopez allowed his man to score 0.58 points per pick-and-roll play and 0.73 points per play out of the post. To dig deeper, Lopez allows his man to shoot 30.1 percent from the field off of the dive and 37.2 percent out of the post.
In other words, he can be the defensive big man the Blazers need—in limited minutes.
Trading Youth for a Role Player
It's perfectly clear that Lopez can hold his own on both ends of the floor, scoring with efficiency and playing a strong brand of defense. What isn't clear, however, is why the Trail Blazers would trade Jeff Withey and two draft picks to acquire a role player.
Keep in mind, Lopez has never averaged more than 26.0 minutes per game.
At the end of the day, there's a grand probability that Withey pans out to be the same player as Lopez. He blocks shots, plays high-quality defense, scores when he's needed and doesn't dominate on the glass.
Furthermore, the two second-round draft choices may amount to nothing, as most players drafted in that range do.
With that being said, the execution wasn't the issue, but instead the reasoning behind the deal. Rather than allow Withey to develop into a defensive anchor, the Blazers displayed a sense of urgency by bringing in a two-way big man.
They may have their starter, but they also opened up the floor for another question—what about Meyers Leonard?
The Leonard Factor
In 2012, the Portland Trail Blazers owned two first-round draft choices, both slated in the lottery. At No. 6, they took eventual Rookie of the Year point guard Damian Lillard, and at No. 11, they drafted center Meyers Leonard.
One year later, they've made it perfectly clear that Leonard will be limited, at best, for the foreseeable future.
It's not improbable for Lopez to come off of the bench and for Leonard to start, as the former has served as a backup in the past. With that being said, the Blazers have been in the market for a center and are not officially out of the chase for J.J. Hickson.
You know, their starting center in 2012-13 who ranked seventh in the NBA in double-doubles—higher than LaMarcus Aldridge.
With that being established, it's become perfectly clear that Leonard may be more of a project than we'd previously presumed. He finishes well around the basket and shot above 80 percent from the free throw line, but the envisioned pick-and-roll tandem of he and Lillard has been put on pause.
This trade simply illustrates how uncomfortable the Blazers are in trusting Leonard as their big man for a postseason push.
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