Starting five: Lopez sets lofty goals

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez admittedly isn’t a numbers guy.

But when I asked Lopez if he thought shooting, say, 60 percent from the field this season was possible, he said, “I think so. It’s just a matter of finishing a lot of easy ones, making every layup count, things like that, and getting quality shots, shots I’m confident I can make.”

Maybe 60 percent was a bit of a lofty number for me to throw at Lopez. Maybe I should’ve went with 55 percent, which was Grantland writer Zach Lowe’s prediction for Lopez’s field-goal percentage for 2013-14.

Lowe pointed out in his story that just 28 players over the last three seasons have shot 55 percent. He also pointed out most of those guys are dunkers. Lopez is not.

The only player to shoot 60 percent last season was DeAndre Jordan (64.3), but 353 of his 488 shots came at the rim.

Lopez is a career 50.8-percent shooter. He shot 52.1 percent last season, a season in which he was named an All-Star for the first time. His career high was 53.1 percent during his rookie season in 2008-09.

Lopez, though, has never had this many weapons around him: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko.

Lopez should get plenty of open shots. He drained 57.9 percent of his field-goal attempts during the preseason (33-for-57). Yeah, I know it’s the preseason. Still that’s pretty darn good, and likely translatable to when the games actually matter.

“The ball just moves so well in general,” Lopez said. “It’s great to see it move on the floor. And everyone’s been getting easier looks.”

Lopez finished fifth in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating last season and averaged 19.4 points in 30.4 minutes.

“He needs to grow, to get better,” Nets first-year coach Jason Kidd said. “That’s kind of his foundation of what he did last year.”

Kidd wouldn’t reveal his statistical goals for Lopez, but did point out the team is built differently than last season.

“But I still think he shouldn’t shy away from being a dominant center,” Kidd added.

Asked if he thinks Lopez is still underrated, Kidd said, “I think when you make an All-Star team, the first one, you can still fly under the radar. I think if you can add to that, if your team plays well, I think then he won’t fly under the radar as much as he has in his first few seasons.”

Kidd was surprised Lopez wasn’t voted the best center in the NBA by any of the league’s 30 GMs.

“I think he should be on it, he’s one of the best. But that just shows that he does get overlooked,” Kidd said.

Not by Shaquille O’Neal though. For the second straight year, Shaq chose Lopez as the best center in the league.

His rankings? 1. Lopez, 2. Roy Hibbert, 3. Dwight Howard, 4. Marc Gasol, 5. Jordan.

Think Lopez can shoot 60 percent? Think Shaq is wrong about his center rankings? Let us know in the comments section below.

In case you missed it: A lot of players sat out of practice Monday. Check out our injury report. Read our whole blog on Shaq and Charles Barkley’s praise of the Nets.

The 411: I’ll be covering practice today. KG and D-Will should talk.