It's been a while since someone said, "the Nets miss Brook Lopez," but I think people should start to think that way.
Lopez's injury may have sparked the Nets spurt into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but they could use the high-scoring big man more then ever right now. This being evident in the poor play from the Nets big men past Kevin Garnett. Andray Blatche and Mason Plumlee have been fairly inefficient through four playoff games, both posting negative plus-minus ratings. Blatche has a plus-minus rating of nearly minus one point and Plumlee has a horrific minus 16.7. We wrote last week how Kevin Garnett needs to play more and that trend has remained up to date. The Nets fall apart on the defensive end when KG is off the court and their offensive has been streaky at best. With Garnett off the floor, the Nets offensive produces 15 less points per 100 possessions than when he is on the floor. On defense? They allow more then 10 points per 100 possessions.
This is where Lopez would come in. The theory that Lopez can not fit in well with the Nets' long-ball lineup is blown out of proportion. While being slower than the norm, Lopez is adept at getting out of the paint and hitting a jumper from 12 to 15 feet out. The Stanford alum shot 35-of-70 this season on shots in between the paint and the three-point line. Lopez has a more talented perimeter game in comparison to Plumlee and is more likely to stay in line with Jason Kidd's offense than Blatche.
Lopez's defensive drawbacks are also quite false. In the Nets defensive scheme, Lopez can clog the paint similar to how Garnett does now. His big, seven-foot frame can stand in the way of slashing opponents and he can sag back on pick-and-roll's similar to what Joakim Noah does with the Bulls. Lopez averaged nearly two blocks before his season-ending foot injury, and would average even more in the way the Nets funnel their opponent into the middle of the paint. Plumlee and Blatche have both struggled on defense all series long, Plumlee getting in foul trouble nearly every game and Blatche failing to defend the pick-and-roll correctly. With Lopez hypothetically playing in this series, the Nets would not have to depend on the two aforementioned role players and maintain their steady play when Garnett comes out.
The Nets are tied in a series that should be 3-1. Many different factors led to the Nets losing effort last night, but one sticks out and has been a trend all series long: the bench. The bench has failed to make the impact they did in the regular season and has not lived up to their high billing. The two main culprits have been Blatche and Plumlee, who have the most responsibility coming off the bench as they play the most crucial minutes off the bench.
Brooklyn was expected to compete with the likes of the Miami Heat due to their reserves, but the group's failure to play well has made it difficult for Brooklyn to even get past Toronto. Lopez's impact would be felt immensely on this series. The oft-injured big man would take away from Plumlee and Blatche's poor minutes and also help the Nets matchup better with the bigger Raptors. Jonas Valanciunas has averaged 12 rebounds per game thus far, and even though Lopez isn't a major rebounder himself, he could be a body that stands in Valanciunas' way and keep him off the glass.
Look, would the Nets be dominating this series if Lopez was on the floor? Probably not. The series has been so even and back and forth that it is tough to say. Also, no one knows how Lopez would truly fit right now, or if the Nets would even be at this point if he was still in the lineup. However, in an ideal world, Lopez, and his crafty work on the offensive end, and his massive frame on D, would give the Nets the upper-hand on the upstart Raptors.