It was an offseason full of intrigue for the Brooklyn Nets with the acquisitions of stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko. And of course they also hired Jason Kidd as head coach.
Expectations have skyrocketed as owner Mikhail Prokhorov and general manager Billy King have gone all-in to try and win a championship. One of the biggest determinants in the team's success will be how big of an improvement Brook Lopez can make.
The question is not really about Lopez's skills. He did make the All-Star team last season.
The concerns with Lopez are his physicality, aggression and presence. Basically, Lopez needs to be tougher.
The Nets were 8-4 in the regular season last year when the 7-footer registered a double-double and 9-4 in games where he had 10 or more rebounds.
For as big as he is, 7'0" and 275 pounds, his presence needs to increase in more areas than just the offensive side.
Watch this clip below:
Noah knows exactly where to be on defense, and his hustle and effort are always at a high level. Despite his inability to shoot the ball, Noah always needs to be accounted for due to his passing skills and his persistent effort on the glass.
Other centers around the league who are limited with offensive skills but can kill you with their effort are the Magic's Nikola Vucevic, the Cavaliers' Anderson Varejao and the Knicks' Tyson Chandler, just to name a few. The Nets' big man can learn some things from these guys.
According to HoopData.com, he ranked 29th last season in rebounding rate among centers who played over 40 games and averaged over 20 minutes per game. His rate was 13.4. The league average is 16.1.
Lopez averaged just 6.9 rebounds per game last season while playing 30.4 minutes. His teammate Reggie Evans averaged 11.1 boards in 24.6 minutes per game, per ESPN.
Lopez may end up being the Nets' key piece defensively.
Another area that could see improvement is defending the basket. As seen at the 3:37 mark in the video, Lopez can have trouble against screen-and-rolls. He plays too far off on the screen, which allows an easier pass by the ball handler as Noah dives to the basket for an easy finish.
This is something that Nets head coach Jason Kidd and assistant coach Lawrence Frank will have to work on with their center.
One of his best attributes on the defensive side is his ability to effect and deny shots. Lopez averaged 2.1 blocks per game, according to ESPN. His ability can, at times, alter an opponent's shot.
With all that being said about the defensive side, let's talk about how Lopez fares offensively.
There are few big men in the NBA with his offensive skill set. He can create for himself, draw fouls, post up and also has a decent mid-range shot.
As the shot location table on HoopData points out, Lopez has a solid-to-high field-goal percentage from just about anywhere inside of the arc.
Last season, he was actually the leading scorer for Brooklyn.
One of the biggest keys to Brooklyn's season is how Lopez fares in a new offensive system run by coach Kidd, with players such as Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett surrounding him.
Kidd is going to preach quick ball movement and spacing. The 25-year-old center, at times, will hold the ball too long in the post without really trying to create a quality shot.
Williams and Johnson have already played with the big man. They know his style of play and how to fit it with theirs.
Pierce and Garnett are a different story.
Offensively, each player has certain areas where they like to take their shots. For instance, often times at the end of a game Pierce will look to create separation around the foul line. Garnett is a solid mid-range shooter who can still post up as well.
All three players (Lopez, Pierce and Garnett) will need to adjust to each other.
Each player can get comfortable from the mid-range, meaning that they will have to be aware of spacing in the team's half-court sets. Additionally, Pierce and Garnett have to learn in which spots Lopez likes to get the ball and where he is most effective.
The two future Hall of Famers may have the biggest impact on Lopez's development this season. They both have fiercely competitive personalities and are not afraid to get into a teammate's ears, especially Garnett.
The former Celtics stars want to win now.
They know they don't have much time left in their careers. Despite their age and mileage, both "The Truth" and KG can still play at the highest of levels.
They want to win one more championship. It's the reason they agreed to be traded to Brooklyn. One of the biggest pieces to the team was the young center.
As Garnett told Newsday a few weeks ago, "His skill level is impressive and I haven't been around a skill level like that versus playing [against one] I don't think ever."
They know Lopez has talent.
They know he's capable of being even better.
They know he needs to get better for them to win a ring. You can bet these two will try all they can to get everything out of him.
The question remains: Will they?
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