A rejuvenated Brook Lopez has helped fuel the Milwaukee Bucks’ hot start

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 20 (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 20 (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

For obvious reasons, the 2021-22 season was one to forget for Brook Lopez in his fourth year with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Following Milwaukee’s season opener on October 19 of last year, the center was pulled from the lineup due to back soreness. Lopez ended up undergoing an abrupt back procedure that cost him most of the season. He was able to return in mid-March, but he understandably struggled to find his footing and regain his pre-injury form in the brief playing time he received before the playoffs. At 34 years old and coming off major back surgery, fans were unsure what Lopez would look like to begin the 2022-23 NBA season, but the veteran has undeniably turned heads early on.

Brook Lopez has come out firing for the Milwaukee Bucks to begin the 2022-23 NBA season

While it was not far-fetched to believe that Brook Lopez would look good to start the season after an offseason of rest, no one could have expected him to be ranked 10th in Basketball Reference’s MVP Tracker as of November 1. Lopez has looked like a new player to start the year, having played some of his best basketball in years. It is a small sample size, but there is no denying how great he has been throughout Milwaukee’s 6-0 start, as Lopez has undoubtedly helped fuel this success.

Something the Bucks lacked for most of last season was Lopez’s formidable presence at the hoop on the defensive end. The big man has asserted himself as one of the best rim protectors in the NBA over the past few years, and he has been outright outstanding to begin this year. At the time of this writing, Lopez is currently tied for second in total blocked shots with LA Clippers’ big man Ivica Zubac, as the pair have 20 each. Both are one short of Orlando Magic center Bol Bol, who has 21. Interestingly enough, Lopez has played one less game than Zubac and two fewer than Bol. He is certainly a significant reason why the Bucks have given up the third-fewest points in the paint this season and boast the best defensive rating in the association, according to NBA.com/stats.

Following a six-block performance against the Brooklyn Nets on October 26, Lopez received some high praise from head coach Mike Budenholzer. Regarding Lopez’s defensive efforts, Budenholzer said, ‘He’s really changing the game in the paint. We’ve asked him to do even more this year; he’s embraced it. Credit to him as he’s got a great feel for timing for where to be and how to contest and block shots and still rebound. He’s been really good for us defensively.’ All of those statements are true, and Lopez has made noise on that end this season. Again, it is early, but Lopez could be a dark horse candidate for Defensive Player of the Year if he can keep all of this up.

Though Lopez has been outstanding on defense, his efforts on that end have not overshadowed what he has done offensively. Through six contests, Lopez is currently averaging 15.3 points per game while shooting 47.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point land. Offensively, the biggest story with Lopez has undoubtedly been his long-range shooting. Lopez has not been shy about letting it fly from the perimeter since he set foot in town back in 2018, but it seems like it has been a point of emphasis for him this year. Currently, Lopez is heaving an average of seven 3-pointers on a nightly basis and is burying 2.5 of them, both of which are new career highs. His 2.5 makes per contest are tied for the second most among centers in the NBA this season.

Simply put, Lopez has been nothing short of fantastic for the Bucks to start the season. He looks healthy after battling through a significant injury last season. Not only has he been dominant on the defensive end, but he has helped put points on the board as well, which is something this team knew they needed without Khris Middleton. It is still incredibly early, but Lopez even being mentioned near an MVP tracker after the difficult turn of events he endured last season is simply remarkable. Lopez has been instrumental in Milwaukee’s 6-0 start, and hopefully he can continue to help the team string together wins as the new season goes on.

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Stay tuned to see how Brook Lopez can build off this hot start for the Milwaukee Bucks as the 2022-23 NBA season progresses.