Brook Lopez: 5 Steps the Nets' Big Man Needs to Take to Reach Elite Status

Corey CohnCorrespondent IIIAugust 11, 2011

Brook Lopez: 5 Steps the Nets' Big Man Needs to Take to Reach Elite Status

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    The New Jersey Nets are making their slow climb back to respectability, and one of the major elements of that ascension is center Brook Lopez.

    Sure, point guard Deron Williams is the biggest star and forward Kris Humphries has the most famous fiancee. But Lopez is a franchise center in the making.

    If, of course, he makes some key adjustments.

    Lopez has some glaring areas for improvement that, if addressed, would greatly help him become one of the elite centers in the NBA.

    Here are five things he can do to rise in the rankings.

1. Rebound, Rebound, Rebound

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    Brook Lopez's biggest deficiency is rebounding.

    While he averaged a respectable 8.1 and 8.6 rebounds per game during his first two seasons, Lopez fell to 5.9 boards per contest last season.

    For some perspective, Dwyane Wade and Landry Fields—two guards—averaged 0.5 more rebounds than Lopez, as did Amir Johnson, who played 12 fewer minutes per game than the Nets' big man.

    This blogger from the TrueHoop Network offers solid analysis for why Lopez was such a lame duck on the glass last season.

    If the Nets' putrid offense and Kris Humphries' selfish rebounding are in fact, the true culprits, perhaps Lopez has a chance. Deron Williams can now lead the scoring attack, and Humphries is going to need to learn to share when he gets married.

2. Dominate the Low Post

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    Brook Lopez averaged 4.8 field-goal attempts at the rim during the 2010-2011 season, making three of those attempts (62.6 percent successful).

    He actually averaged more shot attempts from three to nine feet away from the basket (5.4), though he was less successful, shooting 47 percent from that range.

    Lopez would benefit from becoming more aggressive in the low post and scoring more proficiently at the rim.

    Compared to three of the more dominant centers in the league—Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Amare Stoudemire—Lopez's inside scoring doesn't measure up very favorably.

    Howard shot 75.4 percent at the rim last season, averaging seven attempts per game. Bynum made three quarters of his shots from the inside. Stoudemire only made about four out of every 6.2 attempts, but he has a strong outside game to complement that.

    Lopez has some range, but not enough to sacrifice his game at the rim.

3. Passing

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    In order to become a more complete player, Brook Lopez should improve his passing.

    His career high for assists is a meek 1.6 per game in 2009-2010. He also averages a little over two turnovers per contest.

    With so few teammates doubling as reliable scoring options, it is easy to see why Lopez would be limited in this regard. But if he never becomes a true power center (like Dwight Howard), he can try to improve some of his finesse skills and become more well-rounded.

4. Become More Aggressive on Defense

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    There are some things that apparently won't change with regards to Brook Lopez's defense. First and foremost, his lateral quickness (or lack thereof) proves to be a liability. Faster players can blow by Lopez with ease, and if he is caught-off-guard, his speed handicap leaves him unable to adjust.

    One thing he can improve on, however, is how he asserts himself on defense. While he can't be too aggressive in approaching the ball-handler (because it would leave him vulnerable to faster players' drives), he can establish his presence in the lane.

    Lopez is 7'0" and 265 pounds; this should translate to more than the 1.5 blocks per game he averaged last season. He has the potential to overcome his weaknesses to become a more dominant defensive center, if only he makes some strategic adjustments.

5. Become a More Vocal Leader

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    This would help his team more than his individual performance, but Brook Lopez would benefit by taking charge as a leader of the New Jersey Nets.

    Becoming more vocal would stabilize the Nets, whose entire roster is under 30 years old except for backup center Dan Gadzuric (33). 

    It would also give Lopez some more confidence, which could translate into stronger play.

    And, honestly, who wouldn't want to hear this voice more often?