Robin Lopez didn’t have the best start to an NBA career. After his first four seasons, all with the Phoenix Suns, he had career averages of 5.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game; although to be fair, he never really got much of an opportunity as he only averaged 14.4 minutes a night over that same span.
Change of scenery was needed and he was shipped to New Orleans as part of a three-team trade. He flourished in New Orleans, posting career highs in points (11.3), rebounds (5.6) and minutes per game (26.0) — perhaps more importantly, he played and started in all 82 games for New Orleans.
Another offseason, another three-team trade where this time Lopez was headed to Portland.
Present day. Lopez, affectionately known as “RoLo” to Portland fans, has quickly become a fan favorite as his goofball personality and hard-working style of play have both shown through.
— Robin Lopez (@eegabeeva88) January 18, 2014
Portland wasn’t expected to really compete in the Western Conference this season, but they have stunned everyone going 36-17, which is good enough for fifth in the Western Conference standings at the All-Star break. Like Portland, Lopez has exceeded all expectations.
At the break RoLo is averaging 31.3 minutes per game and posting 10.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a night. It’s not flashy but it’s exactly what the Blazers needed — an inside presence to clean up the glass, play some defense, and most importantly, allow LaMarcus Aldridge to shine in the power forward spot. Lopez is on pace for new career highs in minutes played, rebounds and free throw percentage (79.9 percent).
Look no further that Robin’s shot distribution and you can see that he’s a true big man in the sense that he’s not shooting jumpers; he’s in the paint working for his points.
Plays are not run for Lopez in Portland’s offense. Their weapons are extensive with Aldridge, Lillard, Matthews and Batum getting the bulk of the team’s shots. So, Lopez cleans up the offensive glass and currently sits third overall in offensive rebounds with 210 already! He’s also 10th in the NBA in total blocks with 81 and believe it or not leads the NBA in offensive rating at 125.2 — granted his usage rate is only 14.1 percent but it’s still impressive.
Win shares are the number of wins contributed by a player. The most common way this is used is win shares per 48 minutes played (WS/48). The league average is .100 — Lopez is .158, Hibbert .160, Chandler .160, and Jordan .183. Lopez doesn’t have the big-name allure of the aforementioned centers and frankly isn’t as good; however, his contributions to the change in culture in Portland should not be overlooked.
Money is always a factor as well, so consider that Lopez is making $5.9 million this season and $6.1 million next year and you quickly realize how amazing this trade was for the Blazers. Want some perspective? Glen Davis is making $6.4 million this year and Kendrick Perkins is making $8.7 million — there are many, many atrocious contracts our there in the NBA that show how cheap Lopez’ services are.
The Blazers have NBA championship aspirations and while I personally don’t think they will reach that goal this season, they are certainly on the right path in the Rose City. Baby steps are needed when building a championship roster and this deal will be one to look back on in a couple season when Aldridge and Co. could be hoisting the Larry O’Brien at mid court.
**You can contact Chris regarding this article on Twitter: @Chris_Reichert