His deal didn’t break Twitter, but Brook Lopez’s presence has been one of the biggest reasons for the Milwaukee Bucks’ hot start.
When the Milwaukee Bucks signed Brook Lopez to a one-year deal worth $3.3 million, there was no mass hysteria on social media, nor did SportsCenter give it much attention, but it may have been one of the best moves any team made in the summer of 2018.
With great size and a deft low-post game, Lopez has always been a traditional type of center since entering the NBA in 2008. He could stretch out to the elbow, but more often than not, the former Stanford product was stationed around the basket.
During his first eight seasons in the league, that style of play worked out fairly well. Lopez was a productive starting-caliber center who even made the All-Star team once. He wasn’t leading his team to many wins, but you couldn’t question his talent.
In his final run with the Brooklyn Nets during the 2016-17 season, a funny thing happened to the usually interior seven-footer. A guy who made just three shots from behind the 3-point line prior to the year, Lopez began shooting 3s — 387, to be exact — and hit them at a respectable 34.6 percent clip.
With more big men stepping out beyond the arc, Lopez’s transition made all the sense in the world, creating wider driving lanes and making sure he wouldn’t go extinct as the NBA went through a 3-point revolution. Ideally, all teams would like their centers to make a similar change. Most don’t, making Lopez’s transformation all the more impressive, especially considering the lack of foundation he’d set in place early on.
New Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer brought with him a very modernized approach to the offensive side of the ball, implementing plenty of ball movement while requiring shooters to space the floor.
Milwaukee had guards and wings who demanded respect from outside, but its bigs couldn’t do the same, forcing the team to play four-out with a rim-running 5. While this strategy can be successful, it becomes harder to do so when your best player is constantly sagged off of, as Giannis Antetokounmpo is.
Enter Brook Lopez, whose newfound outside stroke was a projected perfect fit in Budenholzer’s system, creating more space for the Bucks’ ball-handlers and opening up more shots for himself.
The sample size is still relatively small, but already it’s easy to see the impact Lopez has brought to Wisconsin, helping the Bucks rank in the top 10 in offensive categories such as points, 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage.
On the other end, Lopez isn’t grabbing many rebounds, a strange sight for a man that tall, but he’s protecting the rim to the tune of 1.8 blocks per game, giving the same if not more on defense as Milwaukee’s other bigs did in previous seasons.
The beauty of this relationship, as stated prior, is that the Bucks managed to spend an incredibly small amount of money on one of their most valuable players, keeping the payroll down without sacrificing on the court.
Due to their complete turnaround on offense, there’s no telling what Milwaukee’s ceiling can be, especially if Lopez shoots 8-of-13 from deep like he did Sunday night in a win over the Denver Nuggets.
Right now, the Bucks are on a roll, sitting at 10-3 with no signs of slowing down. He wasn’t a big fish in the free agent pond, but Brook Lopez could wind up having a large say in what goes down come April, May and, dare it be said, June.