My expectations were limited when I found out the Portland Trail Blazers acquired Robin Lopez from the New Orleans Pelicans last summer. Portland has a long history of big men that have failed to pan out or fit into their system. Acquiring the center turned out to be one of the best pick-ups for the Trail Blazers.
Throughout his first four seasons in the NBA, Lopez battled injuries and failed to impress. The Phoenix Suns drafted him 15th overall in the 2008 NBA Draft after he had played two seasons at Stanford. Joining a Suns team that already had future hall-of-famer Shaquille O’Neal anchoring the middle, Lopez was not expected to play big minutes. He finished the season averaging 10.2 minutes and 3.2 points per game.
Fast forward three years to find Lopez traded to the New Orleans Pelicans (New Orleans Hornets at the time). Lopez had the best season of his young career in 2012-2013, where he started every game. He set new career highs in points per game (11.3) and rebounds per game (5.6). New Orleans decided to part ways with Lopez when the season ended after seeing the development of their number one pick Anthony Davis. Lopez was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers and it was a match made in heaven.
Lopez is an eccentric human being. His hair lacks any form of style or structure. His voice is extremely deep and powerful. His hobbies include reading comic books, drawing, and watching movies. Sounds like the perfect match for a city like Portland, right? Adding Lopez to the core group of starters the Trail Blazers have developed worked flawlessly.
He averaged 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds this season and played in all 82 games. He recorded 29 double-doubles (easily a career high) and broke the single-season franchise record for offensive rebounds. He also helped solve a lot of problems for the Trail Blazers on the defensive end as Portland finished the season with a defensive rating of 107.8, which ranked 16th in the league. Last season, the Trail Blazers ended the season with the 25th ranked defense at 109.7. There is still a lot of work to be done but the outlook finally seems brighter.
Robin is often compared to his twin brother, Brook Lopez. Both Lopez twins are 7-foot and definitely stand out in a crowd. Both attended Stanford and entered the NBA Draft after their sophomore year. Brook was selected 10th overall by the New Jersey Nets and Robin was selected 15th overall by the Hornets. The similarities stop there.
Brook started his NBA career with great success. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2009 and averaged 13.0 points and 8.1 rebounds in 82 games. As mentioned, Robin Lopez stumbled out of the gate. Brook’s career continued to rise posting new career highs in points during his first three seasons. Robin slowly progressed but was riddled with injuries. Brook would come to understand the pain of injuries as he only played five games in the 2011-2012 season.
Things have changed since the Lopez brothers entered the league. They both seem to have found their game and the team they fit with. Robin Lopez will likely return as the Trail Blazers center next season and I see no signs of him slowing down. He fits with the system coach Terry Stotts likes to play and most importantly, he fits in with the city of Portland.