- David Thorpe, ESPN Staff Writer
We don't always need advanced metrics to tell us certain things.
For example, if asked to list the top players in the NBA today, it's likely any NBA fan or media member would rattle off LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony without even thinking. You could probably add Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Tony Parker, and sure enough, you'd have 10 of the top 11 players ranked by PER.
Except you'd be missing one name, with which advanced metrics do help. Sitting comfortably at No. 4 on that list is Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez, who boasts a PER north of 25. Just four players have PERs above 25, and the other three are bona fide MVP candidates this season -- James, Durant and Paul. Lopez even made the All-Star team this year, replacing injured guard Rajon Rondo.
So what has Lopez done to catapult himself to these lofty heights? Simply, he's playing like a skilled big man rather than a big man trying to show off his skills.
Go back to his rookie season. Observers like me were suggesting that Lopez had the potential to be even more valuable than fellow rookie Derrick Rose. Over the next few seasons, that sounded increasingly absurd, as Rose ascended to stardom and Lopez drifted into a "tall-man-who-can-shoot" kind of game, listlessly jogging around the court and lofting lazy jumpers most of the time. But just as Rose was inspired to elevate his game by his coach, Tom Thibodeau, and some great teammates, Lopez now is enjoying the same kind of environment and the effects are obvious.