The biggest (at least height-wise) addition to the Blazers this season is C Robin Lopez. Mostly known for his college days at Stanford, the 5-year vet comes to Portland ready to prove himself and show that he belongs in the NBA. Unfortunately for Robin, his twin brother Brook has been a stellar center for the Brooklyn Nets, and Robin has never really lived up to the same expectations. He plans to make his mark in Portland starting this year.
In college he was a block machine. Standing at 7’0” will help you become a dominant blocker. However, saying it and showing it are two different things, so here are the stats to prove it. While at Stanford he accumulated 156 blocks in two seasons with the Cardinal. The 73 blocks he had his freshman year set a Stanford record for freshman and it was the second highest block total in Stanford history. Rebounding has been good, but the Blazers need him to be great. During his years at Stanford he had 172 and 204 rebounds, respectively. He averaged 5.5 and 5.7 rebounds per game over those two seasons. Offense wasn’t his greatest strength either, while in college he averaged 7.5 and 10.2 points per game for his seasons in college.
Now that I've covered his background in college, let’s focus on his body of work for the pros. Last season was his highest point per game total of his career, and it’s no surprise why, Robin finally got a chance to start. He scored 11.3 PPG. Before 2012-13, Lopez only started a combined 94 games, he started all 82 last year. He also had his highest rebounding average at 5.6 per game. Last year was the first time he had more than 250 rebounds in a season, and he crushed that with 462 total. He also cracked 100+ blocks in a pro season for the first time with 128. Naturally with more playing time came more opportunity to foul and turn the ball over. He averaged 2 fouls and 1.3 TO per game last season.
The Blazers have high hopes and even higher expectations out of the Stanford product. Upon being acquired by the Blazers in the three team trade with New Orleans and Sacramento, Lopez was immediately named the starting center entering the 2013-14 season. Although the Blazers want Meyers Leonard to eventually be their center of the future, Lopez brings experience and a veteran presence at center. As much as everyone, including myself, loved J.J. Hickson, he was undersized and sometimes outmatched. Hickson held his own, but his height disadvantage was well-documented and exploited by some of the best centers in the game. With two 7-footers in Lopez and Leonard the Blazers are on track to be able to dominate and affect shots from opposing teams.
Lopez is a step in the right direction for the Blazers. He gives Leonard someone to strive to beat instead of Leonard just being handed the job because he is the up and coming center of the future. Lopez brings veteran leadership at a vital position in the starting lineup. Teams will also have to think twice before they double L.A. now because of Lopez’s ability to create space and finish at the basket. Having L.A. (6’11”) and Lopez (7’0”) will cause defenses and offenses fits. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some plays that have the two giants alley-ooping to each other. The west better get ready for some high flying Blazer games.
Finally, Lopez will be a key cog to the Blazers as long as he produces. I can see Terry Stotts taking Lopez out early and often if Leonard is progressing the way they want and see him doing soon. That being said, Leonard will really have to prove himself to unseat Lopez. Robin has proven that when his team gives him a chance, he can shine. He may not shine as bright as his brother, but the Blazers don’t need him to be Brook. The Blazers need Robin to alter shots, rebound and occasionally finish shots at the rim, if he can do that, he’ll fit in just fine.