The Milwaukee Bucks have been a defensive juggernaut for years, and this season was no different. A big reason for that was the play of their center Brook Lopez, who is making a complete comeback after missing most of last season.
The 34-year-old has been so good he is the frontrunner in winning the newly appointed Hakeem Olajuwon Defensive Player of the Year award.
The 7’0” center was considered an efficient post shooter earlier in his career and put out five. But after joining the Bucks, Brook became a two-way player and a dominant presence on the defensive side of the floor.
Working with great defensive players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday has helped Lopez take his game to the next level, and the direct result of this is that the Bucks have topped all defensive stats for years.
For his size, Lopez can move very well and occasionally switch guards, making the Bucks’ defense very flexible and switchable. Brook is also an imposing physical presence at depth – he weighs 280 pounds and is a true destroyer with great block timing.
The eye test says a lot about Lopez and his defensive skills, but a quick look at the stats confirms the Bucks center was outstanding. Aside from being a valuable offensive figure, Lopez averaging 14.3 ppg and 5.9 rpg while shooting 40.4% from deep, Lopez has been a huge influence on his team on the other side of the floor.
The Bucks are No. 1 in defensive rating (106.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) and opponent effective field goal percentage (50.7%), which was a product of Lopez’s color-protecting and it’s Allows perimeter players to focus on guarding the three-point line. Brook leads the league in blocks at 2.9 blocks per game.
“It keeps coming back. For me it’s all about positioning.” Lopez spoke about his mindset when denying shots. “Just make sure you’re in the right place at the right time. Of course I want to be there to protect my husband. If I get a blocked shot, that’s one way to do it. But there are many ways to ensure that it doesn’t get that far in the first place. Whether it’s guys that get screened back and I’m helping by being there in color for a second. Or back doors, things like that that just take away those simple looks. explained Lopez.
The Bucks have only played 27 games this season, but if Brook keeps this up, no one will topple him from the #1 spot on the NBA’s defensive player ladder for the 2022-23 season.