Jan. 30, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns center Robin Lopez during game against the Dallas Mavericks at the US Airways Center. The Mavericks defeated the Suns 122-99. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Robin Lopez Mistake

Feb. 20, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Wizards center (34) JaVale McGee under pressure from Phoenix Suns center Robin Lopez at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Wizards 104-88. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Yes I know, we all hate captain hindsight, and I’ll be honest, I was jubilant  this past summer upon discovering that the Phoenix Suns had traded Robin Lopez. Here’s why, they got a first-round draft pick in return and I was also tired of watching Robin Lopez miss lay-ups. But it’s obvious now that trading Mr. Lopez was a mistake!

Lopez gave Suns fans great hope after his performance in 2010 when he anchored the Suns defense as the Suns went six games with the Los Angeles Lakers in the western conference finals, but it was all down hill from there and after last season, the Suns decided to trade him to New Orleans in-exchange for Wesley Johnson and future first-round draft choice.

Throughout this season, the Suns former center has had a better season than Marcin Gortat. The change of scenery was certainly a positive for Lopez as he’s posting career-highs in rebounding, blocks, free-throw percentage, and scoring.

Lopez struggled in Phoenix after his 2010 campaign and there were three major reasons behind it.

The first and most important reason was that he didn’t fit the “Steve Nash System”. Lopez was never a good pick and roll big-man, he’s slow footed, he has a low release on his jump shot, and he isn’t exactly what one would call an elite athlete. The only reason Lopez found offensive success in 2010 was because defenses paid so much attention to Amar’e Stoudemire when he came off of the pick and roll, there were times when there wasn’t a defender within 10-feet of Lopez. Asking Lopez to be Nash’s roll-man is like asking Shaq to be Nash’s roll-man, and we all know how that one worked out…

The second reason was Marcin Gortat. Gortat was a far better fit for Nash than Lopez will ever be, and as a result, Lopez became more of a spectator than a contributor as time went on. Gortat and Lopez also had a little feud going on inside the locker room which evidently began the moment Gortat arrived in Phoenix. Ultimately Gortat ripped the starting gig away from Lopez, and Lopez never saw it again.

The final reason for Lopez’s struggles in Phoenix was coaching. The level of confidence that the Hornets head coach Monty Williams has instilled in Robin Lopez since he arrived in New Orleans was more than Lopez ever dreamed of getting from Alvin Gentry. How do I know that? Lopez averaged 14.8 minutes per game for the 2010-2011 season and 14 minutes per game for the 2011-2012 season. This season in New Orleans, Lopez is averaging nearly 26 minutes per game throughout 75 games; that’s nearly double the minutes he got in Phoenix and Lopez has rewarded Williams with great play on both ends of the court.

It’s imminent now that trading Robin Lopez was a mistake, especially after the departure of Steve Nash.

Lopez may not be Gortat’s equal as a rebounder and he may not be as effective in the pick and roll as Gortat but Lopez has a more superior offensive arsenal and it’s only just reflected in his scoring numbers. Gortat has made 66.4% of his inside shots this season while Lopez has made just 62.4%, however 75% of Gortat’s inside shots were assisted on while just 53% of Lopez’s inside shots were assisted on which shows that Lopez is a better shot creator than Gortat; not to mention 67% of Lopez’s shot attempts are inside shots while just 49% of Gortat’s shot attempts were inside.

Lopez and Gortat’s scoring averages this season are tied at 11.1 per game, however Gortat sees over five extra minutes per game. Lopez has also proved to be a far better free-throw shooter. Lopez is shooting a career high 76.6% from the foul-line this season compared to Gortat’s 65.2% free-throw percentage.

March 10, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns center Robin Lopez (15) huddles with teammates before the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Grizzlies 98-91. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively, Lopez has been better than Gortat as well. According to 82games.com, the Suns actually give up 0.4 points more every 48 minutes with Gortat on the floor whereas the Hornets give up 2 points less every 48 minutes with Lopez on the floor. Lopez has also proved to be a better shot-blocker too. Lopez averages 3.0 blocks per 48 minutes versus Gortat’s 2.5 blocks per 48 minutes.

Another factor that makes Lopez a better option than Gortat is Lopez’s age. Lopez just turned 25 two-days ago and his best years are still ahead of him. Gortat is already 29-years old and will be turning 30 next February, the chances of him improving significantly are slim to say the least.

Gortat came off of a career year last season and his value was through the roof due to his production and his highly desirable contract(2-years 14 million); there’s no question the Suns would have gotten more assets in return for Gortat than what they got for Lopez. Lopez would have had more success this season with the Suns than Gortat, mainly due to the fact that Lopez never needed Steve Nash, but unfortunately that ship has long sailed.

The more success Robin Lopez has in New Orleans, the more anger Suns fans will feel towards the Suns front-office for trading him. Bottom line, the Suns traded the wrong center.



Tags: Marcin Gortat NBA Phoenix Suns Robin Lopez

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