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2014-2015 Brooklyn Nets Player Review: Brook Lopez

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Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

First, he wasn't a ‘good rebounder'. Then, they worried he'd never be the same because of injury. But after crawling into the playoffs, on his back, on his lead, the Nets appear, finally, to realize he their best (only?) hope for success in the upcoming season, and the main reason for success this past season.

It's been a wild and confusing ride with Brook Lopez as a Net. Season by season, there's never a certainty  whether he'll be back or not, but with his loyalty, you kind of just assume he'll be around. It's tough picturing him in a different jersey.

He was minutes away from being traded to Oklahoma City on the trade deadline. The first half leading up to the trade deadline was extremely confusing. He wasn't playing bad but he wasn't the star that averaged 19 and 7 the season prior to his latest injury. The Nets were pretty bad though, and Billy King almost ‘blew it up'. After all, they were 21-31 with the most expensive roster in the NBA. Hollins and Lopez didn't exactly hit it off.

But trading the seven-year Net Lopez wasn't the answer, if there were any at all. After the trade deadline, Lopez's numbers skyrocketed to 19.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks for the final 30 games of the season. The Nets finished out the season 17-13 and limped their way into the playoffs. But it was good enough.

In the 34 wins Brook Lopez played in, he averaged 20 points and eight rebounds on 15 field goal attempts. In losses, it was his first season average of 15 and 7 on 12.5 field goal attempts.

He needed the ball in his hands. But there was this Hollins-Lopez conflict in the first game of the playoffs. The 20-9-2 Lopez of the second half was storming into the playoffs. He was their only clear advantage against the top seed in the East, whose bigs were kinda small.

He dominated them with 17 points and 14 rebounds in a Game 1 loss but he only took seven shots and it fired up a debate among fans, media, and inside the locker room. Coach Hollins had some interesting things to say after the loss.

"We just went to other people," Lionel Hollins said. "That's why you have a team, that's why you go out and play with five guys. If we had to depend on Brook to get 20 shots, we were going to lose by 25."

Well, not really.

The Nets went 10-2 when Lopez took 20+ shots. Seven of the victories came against teams above .500. Since the All-Star break, the Nets were 7-0 when Lopez took 20+ shots, with five of the seven against playoff teams such as Washington, Portland, Toronto, Milwaukee, and Golden State.

Others were baffled by not only Hollins, but also the Nets point guards. Lopez didn't take fewer than 13 shots in any game for the rest of the series. It's no wonder they pushed the Hawks to six games behind Lopez's lead. He averaged 22 points, nine rebounds and two blocks - the same as the second half numbers that propelled Brooklyn into the playoffs.

But as it always seems, his future is uncertain. Billy King ought to find a way to get him back. He said it himself most recently...

"Without Brook Lopez, there's no way we get to where we got to this year.

STATS

2014-2015

Brook Lopez

Games Played

72

Minutes per game

29.2

True Shooting percentage

55.8

Assist rate

4

Turnover rate

8.2

Usage rate

26.2

Rebound rate

14.1

PER

22.7

Win Shares per 48

.159

Pretty much covered his first-half/second-half stats above, which seemed like two different seasons. First half: 15.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks on 50 percent shooting.  Second half: 19.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks on 52 percent shooting. Overall, he averaged 17-7-2.

He became the better rebounder everybody had hoped for. But in terms of scoring, it was Lopez's second worst behind his rookie season where he averaged 13 points per game. If 17 points were your second lowest total in a seven-year career, then I'd say that's more of a compliment to the chef rather than an insult.

And again, he was recovering from a third surgery on his right foot. He joined the likes of Yao Ming and Zydraunas Ilgauskas in the topic of similar, devastating foot injuries. For Yao Ming, it meant the end of his career. For Ilgauaskas, it meant 10 seasons following the surgery with two All-Star appearances and two Finals appearances.  (Yao's reconstruction was far more extensive than Lopez's, it should be noted.)

Lopez is looking for the same results as 'Big Z'. After all, if you went by his numbers in the second half of the season, when his health was back and his role was known, he would've finished with his second best season with 19.7 points per game. It would've been his best when playing on a playoff team.

He was a threat all over the place excluding the perimeter. Lopez always had a deep bag of tricks but in the 2014-2015 campaign, he displayed why he should be considered one of the (if not the) best scoring centers in the NBA. His offensive repertoire appeared unlimited; his size more noticeable than ever. His craftiness is seen right in the middle of the paint area where Lopez was a big chunk of 17 percent better than the league average at 49.5 percent.

It was in large part due to a "push shot" he seemed to develop late in the season. It worked most efficiently when Deron Williams and him would work the pick and roll. He was a force inside the paint and would hit the mid-range jumpers at a consistent rate. Then they started to park him right by the free throw line, where he could either put home a replication of a big-man's tear drop, or force double and triple teams to open up the perimeter.

The Nets really didn't make teams pay from the perimeter. They shot 33 percent on the year and ranked in the lower portion of the league in that category.

SALARY SITUATION

Brook Lopez has a player option this upcoming offseason. He can opt-in with the Nets for one more season at $17 million, then look for a more luxurious deal next offseason when the new TV deal hits and increases the salary cap across the league. Or, he could sign a long-term deal with the Nets or another team now to secure a future after three major surgeries on his foot.

BEST MOMENT

It was his birthday. The Nets swept the tanking Knicks on the season. Goodness, they almost lost to the Knicks! Thank you, Brook.

Although he may tell you it was his McDonalds experience with his brother.

NEEDS TO

Re-sign with the Nets. Badly. The Nets need him and in a sense, he needs them. It's weird... Despite all the issues that have arisen over the years with Lopez and the Nets, the two always seem to be the perfect fit. He gets them to the playoffs, they pay him the big bucks he deserves while riding "under the radar" with other star players grasping the spotlight (for good or bad).

Mikhail Prokhorov agreed. "As Hollins told you 20 times, we want him back. We need him and think Brooklyn is his home"

His defense wasn't spectacular but he wasn't a liability. If anything, he finally presented the Nets with a threatening body down low with his two blocks per game. Offensively? I don't know what else... Start practicing your three-pointers, Brook.

VIDEO HIGHLIGHT

He dominated his brother and the Blazers that night. A 32-point, 15-of-25 night against your twin is a story on its own, nonetheless the absolute show he put on. Oh yeah and that "push shot" is seen around the 40 second mark.

(Videos thanks to The Brooklyn Game).

IN THE FUTURE

I think he'll be a Net. Mikhail Prokhorov, Billy King, and even Lionel Hollins all know they need the big fella back to have any shot at winning. They don't have a pick in 2016 and 2018. The Celtics have the right to swap in 2017. The pick this year is a near-second rounder. Tanking is not an option.

GRADE: A

There aren't many Nets that deserve an A. Lopez does. He's one of the few that actually lived up to his contract. He gives it all that he's got on a nightly basis and you can truly tell he wants to be a Brooklyn Net. Through good and bad - a lot of bad - Brook has stayed loyal and fought through devastating injuries. He's been benched and criticized despite being one of the few efficient players. But all in all, it's made him a better player and a joy to watch develop these past seven seasons.

The Nets need him, ya' know.