When the Portland Trail Blazers parted with 2nd round draft pick Jeff Withey, two future 2nd rounders, and a wad of cash in exchange for Robin Lopez, it was bitter sweet for me. I like Withey— I always have, but we unquestionably got the better end of that deal. The Trail Blazers acquired Robin Lopez at a bargain price for what he seemingly offered. Yet, I was not content. I welcomed the 7-footer to Portland by referring to him as a “bandage.”
In my defense, I cannot see the future (hard as I try) and I probably wasn’t the only person with reservations. Meyers Leonard was poised for rapid development in heavier minutes, and the Trail Blazers were in position to settle for a backup center in free agency, but then the lesser-Lopez arrived at our doorstep for pennies on the dollar. Call me a cynic, but I foresaw mediocrity. What he was would not have cut it on today’s team, but what he is has made this team, well… what it is.
The same young man that I clowned during his Phoenix years, that I ‘good riddanced’ on a failing New Orleans team, and that I yawned at last July, has become more than I ever thought possible. Robin Lopez is the anchor of the Portland Trail Blazers. On any given night, he is good for about 10 points and 8 rebounds (give or take) while creating better matchups for LaMarcus Aldridge. That may not sound like much, but there is something to be said for dependability.
The rebounding alone makes him invaluable. The quantity might dip from time to time, but the quality of his contributions on the glass is steady. He fights to create second chance opportunities. I don’t mean that he’s in the right place at the right time; I mean that he battles for the ball after every shot. That’s why he has been able to reel in 187 offensive boards this season, good for third most of any NBA player. Last season in New Orleans, Lopez finished at 15th in this category.
Not to mention the countless tap-backs he’s executed. Head coach Terry Stotts has given Robin Lopez this task by design, but you won’t see it show up in the individual stats. You will notice, however, that the Trail Blazers average nearly 3.7 more possessions per game compared to last season and, coincidentally, Robin Lopez averages 3.9 offensive rebounds per game. Despite not being a scorer, Lopez is an enormous part of why the Trail Blazers lead the league in points per contest (108).
But let’s talk about that scoring for a moment. Perhaps not volume, but efficiency. Robin Lopez averages 10.6 points per game on 54.3 percent shooting. That field goal percentage is 10th best of any player in the NBA right now. Factoring in free throw attempts (he shoots a beautiful 79.5 percent, by the way), this means that Lopez is making roughly five of nine shots every night. A player that can consistently put up double-digit points without taking shots from dedicated scorers is, again, invaluable.
If you can’t tell by now, I’m a huge proponent of consistency. At this juncture, I am confident that Robin Lopez can be depended upon as more than just a bandage. His contract only runs through next season, but it might be worth keeping an open mind when it comes time to re-sign. I have a few qualms with aspects of his defense yet, but that can wait for another day. Robin Lopez has blossomed in the Rose City, and he belongs here for the long haul.
If you’re reading this, Sideshow, I’m sorry it took me so long to come around. Keep up the good work, or I’ll have to eat crow again before you can call “no take-backs.”