Although already one of the premier big men in the game, Lopez has to step up if the Nets are to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Yes, Deron Williams is the unquestioned marquee star on the team.
However, no matter how well other players on the Nets roster perform, success will not be achieved unless Lopez wills the team toward it.
Last season, the Nets suffered without Lopez’s presence on the floor.
Now, one might immediately think it idiotic to make the claim that Lopez is more valuable to the offense than Williams. That does indeed sound ridiculous.
That’s only a difference of 1.6 points between the two.
Strangely, during the 2013 playoffs, it was quite the opposite.
Brooklyn scored 8.2 more points when Lopez was on the court; whereas when Williams was on the court, the team’s productivity decreased, having scored 12.7 less points.
Pretty weird, huh?
While advanced statistics like those above should only be trusted to a certain degree, they do signify just how important Lopez’s presence on offense was.
In addition, with Lopez having missed seven games early on last season due to a sprained right foot, the Nets went 2-5 during his absence.
Certainly, most basketball aficionados are aware of how good Lopez is on the offensive end of the court. His grace and finesse around the rim make for a picturesque tutorial on how a big man should operate on offense.
Thus, one can see why Lopez is a priceless gem that the Nets—even with Andray Blatche and Kevin Garnett—cannot afford to live without.
Now, one could go on and on about how skilled Lopez is on the offensive end, and rightfully so, for he is huge in that area of play.
Although he is a stud on that end of the court, one cannot ignore the fact that he needs to be more aggressive on defense for the Nets to have a legitimate shot at going the distance.
No if's, and's or but's. He has to.
Could you see how much space Lopez gave Bass on the drive? With all that room, another player could have squeezed right beside Bass and there would have been enough room for both.
Seriously though, there is no reason why anyone should be allowed to drive baseline and finish with an easy jam like he did.
Really, one could make the case that that play should have been an and-1 for Bass, but that’s neither here nor there.
The point is that Lopez has to work on closing up space, getting into a strong defensive stance early and, more importantly, playing with intensity.
What does Lopez need to improve upon most?
If he starts doing those things, he will be a complete big man who would be very hard to mess with.
Without question, adding championship pedigree players in Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Garnett to the roster should help Lopez in that regard, for the players’ track records are impressive.
Briefly, think about Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo prior to KG’s arrival in Boston.
To some, Rondo was just another over-hyped prospect.
Rondo is the equivalent of an NFL prospect who runs a 4.2 in the 40 at the combine and sees his draft value skyrocket. His private workouts have been so stellar that NBA teams are overlooking the volumes of Kentucky tape that suggest he is not a first-round worthy point guard.
Likewise, during Perkins’ initial years in Celtic green, he constantly looked as if he did not have a clue where he was and why he was on the court in the first place, averaging only 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in his first four seasons in the NBA.
Indeed, it doesn't take a genius to see the exponential progression the two players experienced while playing alongside Garnett and Pierce, for both Rondo and Perkins were key contributors in the Celtics’ 2007-08 championship run.
Certainly, if Garnett and Pierce were able to help those players become intimidating forces on the court, can you imagine the impact they’ll have on an already elite talent in Lopez?
Yes, their tremendous leadership abilities will prove to be a priceless commodity, instilling what it takes to be a champion within Lopez.
The Nets have a chance to achieve greatness. While the team is definitely stacked with players who can make a difference on a nightly basis, Lopez will have to be the one that leads the charge in order for them to surpass the Miami Heat, the Indiana Pacers or any other contender in the Eastern Conference.
Although basketball has only been in Brooklyn for a hot minute, winning a championship is the only thing on the agenda.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are by way of Basketball-Reference.com.