Player Capsules 2012, #283-285: Brook Lopez, Eric Gordon, Steve Novak

As our summer mainstay, Aaron was writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. As the summer dies down and the leaves turn, this quixotic quest of a series has happily reached the last third. But it's certainly not done yet! Today we continue with Brook Lopez, Eric Gordon, and Steve Novak.

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Follow Brook Lopez by engaging in chill time with the Green Lantern.

It took a while, but I've finally bought in. Thanks to constant bickering with @uuords and other Nets fans, I've come to believe something I never thought I'd say -- over the full season, Brook Lopez has a reasonably good shot at improving the Nets' defense. I had to watch a bunch of tape to really buy into the idea, especially since I still don't think Lopez is a positive contributor on that end. Because I don't. At all. Lopez is flat-footed and oftentimes virtually immobile on the defensive end. He covers pick and rolls about as effectively as I'd cover a whale, and his shot blocking -- while decent by the numbers -- tends to vastly overstate his ability to defend the post. He blocks shots, but he doesn't really get good position on any of the blocks, and he's got a bad habit of letting slick big men slip behind him for easy off-hand layups. Compounding the problem, Lopez is consistently slow to get back in transition, and that's not a skill that's likely to get much better any time soon -- in dealing his somewhat tricky foot problems, the chances of Lopez seriously going all-out to stop a transition break end-to-end on a regular basis are minimal to none. As with any seven footer, actually.

But here's the thing. I'm a big fan of analysis by replacement, especially when dealing with teams like this year's Nets, who are featuring key new pieces and a generally completely revamped roster. And while I think Lopez is a pretty poor defender, I also think he's dramatically better than anything the Nets put on the court last season at the center position. Consider -- the 2012 Nets were a team that was giving Johan Petro, the hollow husk of Mehmet Okur, and the shadow of Shelden Williams serious burn at the center position. On offense, Lopez -- a legitimately talented post player and a serious midrange shooter despite his enormous size -- is an obvious upgrade to anything the Nets put out in the frontcourt. But on defense, despite his faults, Lopez is STILL an upgrade. Consider his intrinsic skills versus any of those three players:

  • Johan Petro is exceedingly slow -- he's as slow as Lopez, but without any of the strength. His pick and roll coverage is quite literally just as bad, and unlike Lopez, he isn't even a largebody center to make up for it. He's 7'0", but clearly stands a shade under Lopez and fouls roughly once every 7 minutes on the court, a pretty ridiculous rate.

  • Mehmet Okur finally lost it in 2012. He was playing injured, sure, but the man simply couldn't move at an NBA level anymore. He couldn't jump adequately, he couldn't pretend to front a man in the post, and his pick and roll coverage was confused and hesitant.

  • Shelden Williams is 6'9". According to his team-reported height, at least. I'd venture he's more of a 6'8" or 6'7", watching him on the court and comparing him to guards and the centers he'd face. I entreat you -- go find someone who you've got 5-6 inches on and see how effectively he fronts you in the post. And... yep, that's the joke.

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