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Thursday, December 6, 2012
Lopez looks worth the money

By Mike Mazzeo

When the Brooklyn Nets committed four years and $60 million to Brook Lopez after they failed to reel in Dwight Howard, many saw the move as a significant risk.

After all, Lopez was coming off an injury-plagued season in which he played just five games due to a pair of right foot fractures.

Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez has played like a max contract guy this season.
But so far -- at least prior to missing the past three games due to a mild right foot sprain, anyway -- Lopez has looked every bit like a max player for the Nets in 2012-13. In 14 games, the 24-year-old has posted averages of 18.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks, while shooting an efficient 53.4 percent from the field.

ESPN.com’s John Hollinger referred to Lopez as one of the best free-agent pickups in the NBA in his latest Insider piece.

Writes Hollinger:

Brooklyn took some dicey contract gambles this offseason, and a couple of them (Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace) already look as though they'll be hard to stomach in the coming years. Not so for Lopez, who has had an All-Star caliber start to his season that I already recounted in a recent column, so I won't rehash the details here. Suffice it to say that he's looking worthy of his max contract, and while a recent foot injury has caused some worry, we also should keep in mind he didn't miss a game in his first three pro seasons. If Lopez can maintain the mobility and shooting skill he has displayed in the early season, he'll be money well spent.

Lopez is one of those players that is seemingly always criticized for what he can’t do, rather than what he can do.

But his rebounding numbers are deceiving given that Kris Humphries and Reggie Evans both snag a lot of boards, and his defense -- 107 points per 100 possessions on court -- is improving.

His offensive prowess has always spoken for itself.

Now, it’s just a matter of Lopez getting healthy and returning to the All-Star worthy form he was in prior to the injury.

As for Johnson, well, Hollinger has a point. A big point. The $89.3 million shooting guard is hitting just 40.6 percent of his shots this season. His basketball-reference.com shooting chart shows he’s making just 38.1 percent of his shots from 10 to 15 feet, 42 percent of his shots from 16 feet to the 3-point arc.

His shooting percentages against the upper echelon teams in the league aren’t good for the most part:

Boston: 36.4 percent (12-for-33)
LA Clippers: 66.7 percent (8-for-12)
LA Lakers: 37.5 percent (6-for-16)
Miami: 32.1 percent (9-for-28)
New York: 25 percent (3-for-12)
Oklahoma City: 38.1 percent (8-for-21)

Finally, looking at Wallace (four years, $40 million), it’s hard to tell because he missed seven games due to a sprained left ankle. But in his last three games, he’s put up very healthy and productive averages of 15.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists, while shooting 51.6 percent. Wallace is also the team’s best defender.