The FanRag Sports Offseason Rankings count down the top 100 NBA players throughout the offseason. Methodology, voters and the full countdown are all detailed in the introductory post.
Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez terrorizes mascots around the league and is a great Twitter follow, but he’s a better-than-advertised basketball player, too. Sometimes being called a “role player” has a negative connotation, but as Lopez proves, if you commit yourself wholeheartedly to that role, you can still be one of the top 100 players in the league.
Lopez was ranked in the top 100 by three of our voters and 114 by our fourth, indicating that most of us saw him at least as top-100 player. That’s because Lopez is, if nothing else, consistent. Since 2011-12, he’s played in 450 games and missed just 26. Only 10 players have been in more during that span.
Since 2012-13, he’s averaged 10.6 points on 52.9 percent shooting, 6.9 boards and 1.5 blocks. Each season he’s been within one point, 3 percentage points, 1.3 rebounds and .3 blocks of those averages in one direction or another. In essence, you know what you’re getting from Lopez, so his floor isn’t likely to fall much.
One of our voters had him at 59, indicating that there’s at least some reason to believe he could climb much higher in these rankings. It is possible that, with the Bulls being in full rebuild mode, Lopez will get the ball more. It’s also possible that with more court stretchers around him, the big man will see a few more open looks at the rim and a couple of extra rebounds per game. If both things happen, he could climb up into the low 90s or high 80s.
Lopez doesn’t have a lot of range as an offensive weapon, and he’s not a high-usage guy, either. In fact, he’s only topped 20 percent usage twice in his career, in 2010-11 at Phoenix and in 2012-13 at New Orleans. Last year in Chicago (17.5), he was right around his career average of 17.2. However, he took a career-high 9.6 shots per game, which leads one to wonder how much more he could effectively shoot.
One way that the Bulls used him more than he’d been utilized in the past is with a surprisingly effective midrange game, where he sank 51 percent of his shots from 20-24 feet, such as he does here:
It’s not a drastic leap from there to having a 3-point shot, and his twin brother, Brook, shot 34.6 percent form deep last year. It might sound crazy to be talking about Robin Lopez’s jumper as a “weapon” but it’s something the Bulls might look to exploit more next year.
Lopez is also a decent, but not great, defender. His plus-0.06 Defensive Real Plus-Minus is only 47th out of 65 centers in the league, but that doesn’t really seem to be an assessment that squares up with the eye test … sometimes.
Within 6 feet of the hoop, he holds opponents to 9.0 percentage points below their season averages — and that range is about the best predictive range. And in the traditional sense, Lopez is quite a solid rim protector. But he also has slow feet, so when he gets switched onto a guard in the pick-and-roll, he often gets beat watching even marginal ball handlers zoom by him, which is what happens here.
Lopez fills holes, but he also leaves holes. All around, he’s a very solid player with both a limited upside and a limited downside.
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