Continuing his offensive rejuvenation, Brook Lopez’s play in the Milwaukee Bucks’ seeding games is very deserving of award consideration in Orlando.
Through their first seven seeding games, the Milwaukee Bucks‘ restart down in Orlando hasn’t exactly met the high expectations of fans and followers alike.
Now 3-4 since restarting their season and with one game to go, the Bucks’ play has very much resembled a team having come together under unusual circumstances after a four-and-a-half month-long break had previously derailed the NBA’s 2019-20 season. Needless to say, the league’s best team before the break has had some trouble reaching that same standard over the last couple of weeks.
Yet, the biggest positive difference that has come from the Bucks’ play in this restart has been the offensive re-emergence of one Brook Lopez.
Up until the season had originally been disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic, Lopez’s effectiveness had been entirely one-sided, with that coming on the defensive end.
While Lopez’s rim protection and defensive play has risen to potential All-Defensive team territory throughout the year, Lopez’s season-long struggles from three had weighed down his season within the Bucks’ fantastic run.
But in the time between the layoff and preparing for his return to action, Lopez had clearly worked on his struggles from 3-point range and that has been key to the offensive surge we’ve seen from the 11-year veteran down in the bubble.
Through his six appearances, Lopez is averaging 20.7 points per game while shooting 48.8 percent shooting from the field and 16-for-33 from three (48.5 percent), along with 5.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 29.1 minutes per contest.
Thanks to the scoring outbursts we saw from him against both the Dallas Mavericks and most recently, the Washington Wizards, Lopez shares a hold of the Bucks’ second leading scorer in the bubble, along with Khris Middleton, and is among the 26 players averaging over 20 points per game in the restart.
Of course, Lopez shooting 18 percentage points better from three over his 30.4 3-point percentage on the season has been central to his offensive resurgence, but so have been the areas of his game that he relied on to make an impact throughout the year. Chief among them has been Lopez feasting on the block and taking advantage of mismatches, to which the Bucks have quickly recognized when such opportunities arise and that’s only continued down in Orlando.
Along with that has been the flashes that Lopez has shown when putting the ball on the floor and gliding by his defenders. And now Lopez is averaging 4.3 free throw attempts per game in the restart, nearly double the 2.2 free throw attempts he has averaged on the season. And Lopez is currently 24-for-26 from the line, good for 92.3 percent.
Not only is Lopez playing more minutes a night in the bubble than he was accustomed to seeing before the break, but the impact that he’s had on the Bucks as far as advanced statistics may be the best they have ever been during his stint in Milwaukee.
Case in point, Lopez currently edges out Wesley Matthews for the highest net rating on the team at +14.8 points per 100 possessions in his 175 total minutes. In raw plus-minus numbers, Lopez being a +68 over his time on the floor is currently tied for fourth among all players that have seen regular minutes in Orlando.
And as another reminder, Lopez’s offensive awakening has come while he’s been a primary reason the Bucks have allowed 35.4 opposing paint points per game so far in the restart, the best mark of any of the 22 participating teams. On that note, Lopez has compiled a 34.5 defended field goal percentage when defending shot attempts that are taken within six feet of the basket.
Now with The Athletic’s Shams Charania reporting Tuesday afternoon that the NBA will honor the top performers from the seeding games, it’s clear that Lopez has worked his way into consideration for a spot on the All-Seeding Games team. Even as the Bucks’ play has been less than stellar for extended stretches.
Lopez’s stark turnaround when letting it fly, and on the offensive side of the ball in general, may stand as the biggest development among the group of title contenders fighting it out in Orlando. Doing that while playing up or near the standard he has set for himself defensively throughout the year has given the Bucks some of the end-to-end balance that has largely been missing so far in Orlando.
The Bucks certainly aspire to reach that juggernaut level again in what lies ahead for them in Orlando and with their title hopes on the line. And Lopez has and will continue to be integral to what success they’ll achieve and this ongoing offensive explosion couldn’t have come at a better time as a result.