Center of Attention: Is Brook Lopez The Best In The NBA?

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Center of Attention: Is Brook Lopez The Best In The NBA?
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

It’s an understatement to say I don’t follow college hoops (I’ll be starting this year, though), so when I saw the Nets draft Brook Lopez I couldn’t help but chuckle. “Nice job Nets, you guys grabbed the future Rasho Nesterovic with a lottery pick," I said to myself.

Brook has made me eat those words every time he’s stepped on the court. He went from fringe rookie of the year contender to All-Star level contributor in one year’s time.

So that begs the question, where does Lopez belong among NBA centers? In my opinion?

Right near the top.

When talking about NBA centers, one name always pops up: Dwight Howard. So how does Brook measure up? Let’s have a look:

http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/tiny.cgi?id=ZTl4E

Offense:

Pure Numbers: As you can see, on the offensive side of the ball they measure up pretty well. They averaged about the same amount of offensive rebounds. The higher field goal percentage of Howard (a ridiculous 62 percent) is offset by his terrible free throw shooting. 

That theory is illustrated when looking at the nearly identical point output. Lopez dishes a bit more assists and has fewer turnovers.

Analysis: They are pretty evenly matched as far as offense goes, in my opinion. Both have pretty much the same usage percentage. Howard’s offense relies on physical dominance to dunk on most of his attempts. Howard has a glaring weakness in his free throw shooting form. Brook has a more varied offensive game than Howard.

While Dwight scores on dunks, alleys, and the occasional running hook, Lopez can score from different angles with hooks, up-and-unders, and is a competent mid-range shooter for his position. I think I’d give the (slight) edge here to Lopez.

Defense:

Pure Numbers: Dwight takes all three categories here. He grabs a ton more rebounds (Brook only averages about eight per game), blocks more shots, and steals the ball more. The only positive for Lopez is that he fouls slightly less than Howard does, but it is barely noticeable.

Analysis: Dwight is a monster on defense. He swats everything put in front of him and changes almost every other shot he’s defending. He has great horizontal movement for a big man and can chase down shots from behind.

Here’s a guy that makes LeBron James think twice about coming into the lane. With that being said, he does tend to pick up untimely fouls and take out his frustrations by committing “revenge” fouls. While Lopez is not a poor defender (he averages almost two blocks a game), he is overmatched here by a good ten miles. Superman gets this one.

Now that the season numbers are out of the way, who wins head to head?

http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/tiny.cgi?id=JVkmM

Wow, that wasn’t even close. Howard has dominated Lopez in nearly every game they’ve faced off against each other.

Now let’s get to everyone’s favorite topic, “intangibles” (whatever those are). Howard is the best player on a championship contending team, while Lopez was the best player on a historically bad team last year.

Both touch the ball a similar amount of times per game. Howard strikes fear in the heart of slashers, which Lopez can only hope to someday replicate. It should be noted here, however, that Lopez is younger and is a second-year player, while Howard is more experienced.

Look at that statement again and think about what it means. Does it mean that Lopez is a superb scorer or that Howard has the scoring prowess of a NBA sophomore? Lopez has similar numbers to those Howard put up at this age on the defensive side of the ball as well.

So who is better at this point in time? Howard, no doubt. Could that gap be closed in a few years? Barring injury, it’s very likely. Howard should enjoy being the undisputed best center while it lasts, because a lot of players are beginning to catch up to him.

All Stats Courtesy of Basketball Reference


Tagged: basketball, brook lopez, dwight howard, nba, new jersey nets, orlando magic, sports

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