Bucks

Revitalized Lopez Making Case for DPOY

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Brook Lopez has been the anchor of the Bucks’ defense since he arrived in Milwaukee.

After missing most of last season with back surgery, the Bucks’ defense fell to 14th overall in defensive rating. With a revitalized and healthy — maybe the healthiest he has ever looked — Lopez, the Bucks are back in contention for the top defense in the NBA.

The Bucks rank second in defensive rating (107.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) and first in opponents’ effective field-goal percentage (51.1%). Steve Aschburner at NBA.com noted that “a key to both has been Lopez’s added responsibilities this season in moving farther from the rim and challenging both players in opponents’ pick-and-roll sets.”

Lopez is not only spurring the Bucks defensively but has been a considerable boost offensively. He is enjoying his best scoring season in Milwaukee. While he is 34 years old, Lopez seems to have hit the fountain of youth.

Lopez a mountain in the paint

Splash Mountain has been a mountainous force in the paint for the Bucks. Not just this season, but his entire time in Milwaukee. He leads the NBA by averaging 2.8 rejections in the 2022-2023 campaign.

The Bucks build their defense around the Stanford product. Lopez is the shot-deterring rim protector who allows Giannis to roam and make plays. It allows the Bucks’ guards to be more aggressive, knowing Lopez is patrolling the paint.

Lopez not only blocks nearly three shots per game, but he easily contests the most shots per game.

According to NBA.com stats, in three of the last four seasons, the Bucks gave up the most three-point attempts, while this year, they allow the ninth-fewest. The ever-changing Lopez has made adjustments to help the Bucks drastically slice the average number of three-point shots hoisted against them from 40.6 last season to 32.6 this season.

Lopez signed with Milwaukee in 2018. In 18-19 and 19-20, the Bucks led the NBA in defensive efficiency. With Lopez injured in 2021 and not returning until the final 12 games of the regular season, the Bucks slipped to 14th. With him back, the Bucks are once again near the top of defensive efficiency (2nd). It’s no coincidence that a healthy Lopez brought the Bucks back to being a superb defensive team.

Lopez is having his best offensive season in Milwaukee

Not only is Lopez roaming the paint defensively and making a case for Defensive Player of the Year this season, but the big man is also enjoying the best offensive season of his Bucks’ tenure.

After averaging between 12 and 12.5 points per game every season in Milwaukee, Lopez is refreshed after back surgery.

Splash Mountain is averaging 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game on 47.7% shooting, including a scorching 39.3% from three-point range. Lopez’s career-high three-point percentage is 36.5% in 2018-19.

It appears he is going to shatter that mark.

Not only does Lopez stretch the defense at the five, creating driving lanes for Giannis, but he is also burying those triples this season at a marksman’s rate. His effective field-goal percentage is currently tied for his career-best (57.7%).

It is shocking to see a player reinvent themselves as Lopez has in multiple facets over his career. The guy who shot only seven three-point attempts in his first six seasons has put up more than half his shot attempts from deep in five seasons with Milwaukee. Defensively, he has gone from a liability to a force with the Bucks.

Lopez is a two-way force

While Lopez has always been an anchor for the Bucks defense, he’s not always viewed that way outside of Milwaukee.

Some fans still seem to hold this view of him being somewhat of a liability with the Nets. Lopez deserves all the credit for reinventing himself on both ends.

This year Lopez has not only been a factor defensively, but he’s been very good offensively, too, and is one of the leading candidates for Defensive Player of the Year. He said in his recent interview with Steve Aschburner of NBA.com:

“I’ve had a pretty unique career arc, doing a lot of different things over the years. However I was asked to do it, though, I wanted to have an effect on the game. Now I guess I’ve become more of a defensive anchor. That’s really where I hang my hat.”

Offensively, Lopez is making teams pay if they leave him open to slow Giannis.

With Lopez on the court and his obvious defensive impact, chatter is growing about potential Defensive Player of the Year honors.

All that to say, any way you slice it, Splash Mountain has a significant effect at both ends of the court in Milwaukee.

About Mitchell Skurzewski

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