There isn't much to cheer for in Brooklyn after the first (near) week of basketball, but there is one thing that is certain -- Brook Lopez is thriving in his new role. The question is whether this is making the team more efficient.
There was talk leading up to the season that the Nets may run an "inverted" offense that features Lopez setting up shop on the elbow and having Thaddeus Young play down low and around the rim, and it is clear that Hollins is carrying through with that plan.
Hollins is rolling with this offense and it only takes a quick glance at Lopez's shot chart to realize that this is how it is now.
Half of the All-Star's shots are coming from outside the paint or at the foul line and it is great insurance for Jarrett Jack and the rest of the Nets ball handlers to have Lopez roaming near the perimeter..
There are issues, however, like team efficiency
Forget the missed jumper here and focus more on the space that Lopez gets here. Thus far, this has been a common move out of Brooklyn's playbook. The original set doesn't work and Lopez has to bail out the offense and take a jumper with the shot clock about to hit zero.
Winding down the clock and finding Lopez may yield a bucket more times than not (he's shooting 51%), but the Nets offense as a whole is not reaching its potential.
Before the Milwaukee game, Brooklyn was playing the 26th fastest brand of basketball in the NBA, averaging fewer than 97 possessions per game. Lopez is going to get his, but no one else on the Nets has been able to create for themselves.
That's not to say it can't work, or that it's only about him scoring. Even a casual observer can see that Lopez has taken a more vocal role on the team as well, something the Nets have lacked since Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett left.
It's subtle but Lopez has taken charge through the early stages of the season both with his play and how he treats his teammates. In the above clip, Lopez forces Bojan Bogdanovic out from the low block so he can operate. Lopez is doing a much better job this season of locating his teammates. It's not that he's become a point center. Lopez has been committed to getting his shots up, as seen above.
In short, he's trusting his game, and it is what is going to keep the Nets in games at this rate.
Lopez has totally reshaped that game in order to make the Nets more competitive. He has been moving up and down the floor with more ease and his aforementioned passing has been a great development. He has also showed an improved handle. Lopez has always been a nifty scorer, getting his points in a multitude of ways, but this season he has put the rock on the hardwood and finished smoothly.
But for the team to be more consistent, Lopez needs to develop chemistry with his point guards and everyone needs to get one another's timing down.
For example, in the previous clip, Lopez steps out to set a screen for Donald Sloan a second too late and Aaron Brooks gets right around the screen, keeping up with Sloan and forcing Sloan to give up the ball too quickly. Is this an example of Lopez being soft, not taking the hit, or is it a matter of timing? As he logs more minutes with his point guards, we will find out.
The Nets re-signed Lopez and plan to build around him. The fact that he has been more vocal, assertive and a better player through the first week of the season should be a big attraction for free agents who may want to link up with a serious big man. Lopez has always been a score-first player, and he still is, but his ability to find his open teammates and handle double teams continues to improve with every passing game. Pun intended.
Lopez may not be Bob Cousy out there, but he is averaging two assists per game. He is recognizing defenses and finding players with better opportunities to score. This type of selflessness is a big progression from Lopez, and maybe the most important thing we've seen thus far. Lopez has made more than three passes per game this season. Baby steps, people.
As for the team as a whole, the product is sub-optimal, I'd say. The offense is based around Lopez and no one else has seemed to get into a true rhythm other than Bojan Bogdanovic. This season is going to be a struggle if the likes of Joe Johnson and Jarrett Jack can't put the ball in the bucket consistently. You're already starting to see Lopez face double teams. That will increase. You may even see triple teams.
It's great to see the Nets' big investment of the off-season paying off for them. Now the entire team needs to help translate that into wins.