With training camp less than a month away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the Brooklyn Nets.
Today’s question: Who is the team’s most important defensive player?
Brook Lopez. And it’s up to Brooklyn Nets coach Lionel Hollins to help elevate his 26-year-old center’s D.
It’s weird. Lopez’s defensive stats last season were actually pretty good. In the 17 games he played, Lopez allowed opponents to shoot just 39.7 percent at the rim (9.2 attempts per game), and the Nets gave up only 102.7 points per 100 possessions with the 7-footer on the court.
But, for a variety of reasons -- you could see many of them with your own eyes on a nightly basis -- they weren’t a good team overall. They were 9-17 when he was lost for the season due to a foot injury, and then turned their season around without him, going 35-21 the rest of the way.
With Lopez out, the Nets went to a smaller, longer lineup and began forcing turnovers at a high rate.
Now, of course, Lopez is back. And assuming he’s healthy, Hollins will likely ask him to be the team’s defensive anchor in the paint once again.
Though his defense seems to have improved, Lopez has never been known for it. His pick-and-roll defense gets dissected constantly, as does his rebounding.
The Nets finished 28th in defensive rebound rate last season. And putting together a good defensive possession means forcing a missed shot and then not allowing second and third-chance opportunities, something the Nets struggled mightily with in 2013-14.
Hollins turned the Grizzlies into one of the best defensive teams in the NBA during his final three seasons in Memphis, the team finishing in the top-10 in defensive efficiency in each of those seasons.
Part of that, of course, was that Hollins had really good personnel. The other part was that Hollins can really coach up a defense.
Lopez is obviously a very gifted offensive player. But it’s on the defensive end where Hollins wants him to make an even bigger impact.