Centers in today’s NBA have become a rare and often forgotten commodity. With the age of the point guard upon us, fans fail to remember that at one point it was centers who were deemed to be championship winners for NBA franchises. However, teams have now realized that if you get your hands on a top-notch center (i.e., Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol or Tim Duncan) then your chances to win go up astronomically. Can Robin Lopez be one of those game-changers? Not in the way the aforementioned are, but he can certainly carve out his own niche.
Robin Lopez has been a mediocre player at best since being drafted 15th overall in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns. They, like most franchises who select a 7-footer, were hoping that he would be their starting center for years to come. Such was not the case. After four lackluster seasons with the Suns they decided to cut him loose and he was involved in a three-team trade that landed him in New Orleans. This was the opportunity Lopez really needed and he took full advantage. Robin started all 82 games for the Hornets (now the Pelicans) and posted career highs in all major categories: 26 minutes, 11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. Not mind-blowing numbers by any means, but the improvement was noticed around the league.
The Portland Trail Blazers acquired Lopez in a three-team deal and all they gave up was cash, a 2016 second-round pick and a future second-round pick — we all know how tough it is to hit the jackpot in the second round of the NBA draft, so neither of those picks will be missed. Neil Olshey quietly put together one of the best offseasons around the league and Lopez might have been the steal of it all. Am I telling you that Robin Lopez is going to suddenly turn into his brother Brook and be an All-Star? No. Am I telling you that Robin Lopez is going to again set career highs this season and have a big affect on the Blazers’ success? You bet I am.
Now, let me again preface this by saying Robin Lopez is not going to come out and give the Blazers 15 and 10 nightly — the good news is he doesn’t have to nor is he expected to. He was brought in to provide defense, rebounding and, most importantly, a durable body to play the center position. LaMarcus Aldridge is tired of playing out of position at center and told Olshey that he wanted a legitimate center to play with — enter Lopez. Lopez hasn’t been a stud rebounder by any means in his career but factor in that the Blazers also added Thomas Robinson and they have another young 7-footer named Meyers Leonard to help in that department as well.
Here are Olshey’s initial remarks regarding bringing Robin in.
“Bringing in somebody like Robin who knows his role, he will score with opportunity, but he’s not a guy who is going to demand touches. We have enough firepower with our other four guys in the starting lineup, it’s not going to affect them offensively but its clearly going to make them all better defenders.”
Robin Lopez is going to split time with Meyers Leonard; however, from all offseason indications, coach Terry Stotts plans to play Lopez around 30 minutes per game this season. With that extra playing time — not to mention playing alongside an elite PF — Lopez’ numbers will be around 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. That is all Lopez needs to provide in the way of stats to have a successful season — anything above and beyond that is gravy and frankly would be a huge shock.
Is Robin Lopez the long-term center for this Blazers’ franchise? No. However, while he’s on this roster he is going to make a noticeable impact on both ends of the floor and this analyst believes it (along with all the other additions) is going to be enough to propel the Blazers back into the playoffs in 2013-14.