Nets

NBA Analysis: How Overrated is Nets Brook Lopez?

| by David Berri

Once again, trade talks between the Nets and Nuggets are heating up. The Nets obviously want Carmelo Anthony. And it appears the Nets are willing to give up almost anyone to land him. But there is one name that appears to be untouchable. According to a story from Adrian Wojnarowski – offered a few days ago at Yahoo! — “center Brook Lopez is the only Nets player not involved in any of the proposals, sources said.”

So Brook Lopez is untouchable? Really?

Here is what Lopez has offered as an NBA player:

2008-09: 2,501 minutes, 5.4 Wins Produced, 0.104 WP48

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2009-10: 3,027 minutes, 5.6 Wins Produced, 0.088 WP48

2009-11 (as of December 27): 1,052 minutes, -1.7 Wins Produced, -0.076 WP48

At this moment, Lopez is on pace to produce -4.6 wins. And that means he is on pace to be one of the least productive players in the NBA in 2010-11. Just to summarize… before this season Lopez was about average (and average NBA player post a WP48 — Wins Produced per 48 minutes — of 0.100). This year, Lopez is far below average.

Why is Lopez doing so little this season? When we look at his box score stats (I was going to offer a table illustrating all this, but I am lazy today), we see a player who is an inefficient scorer from the field and a poor rebounder. In addition, he is below average with respect to steals, assists, and blocked shots. He does get to the free throw line and avoids committing fouls. But the negatives far out-number the positives. And yet, he is untouchable.

Obviously the reason Lopez is considered a “keeper” is because he can score. Per game he is scoring 19.7 points. Again, this is not because he is an efficient shooter.  No, Lopez is just willing to take shots. And again, given how much the NBA pays players to take shots and score, if Lopez didn’t take these shots someone else would (for example, if Anthony came he would probably take some of the shots Lopez is currently launching).

At this moment, Melo is an upgrade over the small forwards the Nets are employing (again, a table would be good here, but again, I am lazy today). No, Melo isn’t worth maximum money (even if he has improved this year). But he would help the Nets a bit on the court. If somehow the Nets could lose Lopez in the deal, that would help even more.

But because the NBA over-emphasizes points per game, Lopez can’t be dealt. 

One has to remember that the issue isn’t just how the Nets perceive the value of Lopez. It is also how Anthony perceives Lopez. It has been reported that the only way Anthony will sign with the Nets is if he believes the Nets can win. If the Nets trade a player Anthony believes helps the team win – even if that isn’t true – the deal will never get done.

So at this point I am not sure if the Nets believe Lopez really is untouchable (although I suspect they do). One does suspect that Anthony won’t come if Lopez goes. So that means if this deal gets done, Lopez probably can’t help the Nets out by leaving. Nevertheless, given what Lopez is offering this year, the Nets really would be helped if this particular  “keeper” could be kept by someone else.

- DJ