As the NBA shifts almost unilaterally towards a threes-and-layups utopia, scores of big men trained in the old ways have been left behind, collecting dust as relics of an era where low-post scoring was actually worth pursuing. Roy Hibbert, Zach Randolph, Greg Monroe... these dinosaurs have either been pushed out of the league or towards the end of benches around the league. Brook Lopez is not one of those dinosaurs.
Lopez’s courtship of the three ball has been noted here before, but last night saw him unlock yet another sharpshooter’s achievement. He’s now the guy who can pull up from a step or two inside the logo and ice a game for the Bucks:
Lopez sealing Milwaukee’s 114-102 victory over the Jazz with a cold-blooded, Steph Cury-lite three-ball would be a fever dream to a 2013-era Brooklyn Nets fan. Back then, Lopez could score efficiently around the basket while weaving in a mid-range jumper here and there; during his best season in Brooklyn (2012-2013), Lopez attempted nearly three-quarters of his shots from within 10 feet, making 42 percent between three and 10 feet and a whopping 69.8 percent around the rim, per Basketball Reference.
Now? Lopez has adapted to the modern NBA trends to a hilarious degree. Through 39 games with the Bucks this year, Lopez is attempting 70 percent of his shots from downtown, and he’s making them at a 37.5 percent clip. Brook Lopez, immobile big man, has turned into Brook Lopez, court spacer. He’s shooting more threes per game than he is grabbing rebounds, and he’s hitting at a better rate than Klay Thompson, for fuck’s sake.
Milwaukee will rise and fall with Giannis Antetokounmpo—the Greek Freak finished with a 30 points and 10 rebounds—but it will be players like Lopez that will decide whether the Bucks are for real come playoff time. Under new coach Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee is playing at the fifth-fastest pace in the league while attempting the second-most threes; only the Moreyball Rockets chuck it from deep more often. Lopez’s extreme devotion to the three-ball this year is by design, but that doesn’t make it any less shocking to see. And he’s getting better.
In his last five games, Milwaukee’s big boy is shooting 48.8 percent from downtown on a ludicrous 8.2 attempts per game. He’s made seven three-pointers in a game twice in that stretch, once against his old team on Dec. 29 and once against the Pistons on New Year’s Day. Lopez didn’t just start shooting threes this year—his transformation began during his last season in Brooklyn—but he’s never been this accurate or looked this comfortable from behind the arc. He’s no longer just a big man with a neat trick, but a legitimate sharpshooter.