Bucks’ Brook Lopez is becoming one of the NBA’s most underrated players

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 17 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 17 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

There were a lot of questions about Milwaukee Bucks’ center Brook Lopez this past off-season.

He was 34 years old and coming off a recent back surgery that caused him to miss most of the 2021-22 season. Naturally, people wondered if he was nearing the end of his high-impact days as a player. Was he on the decline and never going to be the same? Could he even stay healthy for a whole season again? Should the Bucks try trading him while he still has some solid value? All were valid questions at the time without any known answer.

Lopez had been an integral part of Milwaukee’s success since joining the team in 2018, making a huge difference on both ends of the court. At his best, he can post up, score down low, space the floor, and block the shot of anyone who dares try to score over him on the other end. Could he continue to do that post-injury at this later stage of his career? He had been so good for years, but there were definitely signs that he may never be the same. Even the biggest Lopez supporters probably believed he would start to take at least a small step back.

Well, this year, he has been better than ever.

Bucks’ Brook Lopez is becoming one of the NBA’s most underrated players

Let’s start on the defensive end, where Lopez is one of the leading candidates for Defensive Player of the Year this season. He has always been known as a fantastic rim protector, but he has taken it to even another level this year, averaging a career-high 2.5 blocks per game, ranking third in the NBA. He has a whopping 17 games with at least four blocks this season (second in the NBA), nine games with five or more blocks (also second in the NBA), and five games with six or more blocks (first in the NBA), per StatMuse. If you are an opposing player, I would suggest you stop trying to score over Brook Lopez.

Among the 56 players this season who have defended at least 300 shots from inside of six feet, Lopez ranks sixth with a 53.3 field goal percentage allowed on such shots, per NBA.com/stats. He consistently makes his presence felt on the inside, altering shots and limiting any easy baskets for the opponent. He is the main reason why the Bucks allow the third-fewest baskets per game from inside of five feet.

The Bucks have made it a point to change their defensive strategy a bit and allow fewer threes this season. They were top five in most 3-point attempts allowed per 100 possessions in each of the first four seasons under Budenholzer, but this year they allow the 11th fewest. Running opponents off the 3-point line has led to more shots being funneled down low to Lopez, and the importance of having him down low has been massive. He is leading the league with a ridiculous 17.1 shots contested per game, by far the most in the NBA, with no other player averaging more than 12 contests per game.

Not only has Brook Lopez been arguably the league’s best and most impactful defensive player this season, but he is having his best offensive season since his days with the Nets.

After failing to crack 36 percent from three in any of the previous three seasons, Brook is shooting a career-best 38.3 percent from three on 4.9 attempts per game this season, Just to put this in perspective, Kevin Durant is shooting 38.6 percent from three on 4.8 attempts per game. His true shooting percentage (61.8) is his best since 2013-14 and his effective field goal percentage (59.6) is the best of his career.

Lopez is also averaging his most points per game (15.2) since the 2016-17 season. He scored 20+ points in a total of 26 games in his first four seasons with the Bucks, and this year alone he has already done so 18 times. With Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo missing plenty of games throughout the season, Lopez has needed to carry a bigger load than usual offensively, and he has delivered.

This brings up another important point which is that Brook Lopez has been an iron man this season. Of all the players on the team coming into the year, Lopez was probably near the top of the list in expected games missed due to injury. Again, he was 34 years old and coming off back surgery… nobody expected him to be consistently healthy all season.

Well, he has been by far Milwaukee’s most reliable player all season long, playing in 65 of 66 games. Only two other players on the team, Jevon Carter and Grayson Allen, have played in more than 55 games. In a year where health has been extremely inconsistent for the Bucks, Lopez always being on the court has been massive in contributing to the team having the best record in the NBA. They would not be in this position if it wasn’t for Lopez’s durability.

Brook Lopez is simply a monster on both ends of the court. He leads all centers in threes made this season while also leading all players in blocked shots. He’s the only player on the year to make 100 threes and block 100 shots, and on Thursday night he became the first player in NBA history to make three threes and block nine shots in a game.

If this continues for the rest of the season, it will be just the second time in NBA history that a player makes 150 threes and blocks 150 shots. The only other time it happened? When Brook Lopez did it in 2018-19.

Next. How the Milwaukee Bucks’ current bench compares to the 2021-22 bench. dark

Brook Lopez deserves his flowers.