Pelicans Offseason Update: Robin Lopez

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

Leading up to the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27, Pelicans.com will provide a player-by-player examination of the New Orleans Pelicans, with input from various sources. We’ll review the 2012-13 campaign of each New Orleans player who appeared in at least half of the team’s games, while also looking ahead to the inaugural 2013-14 Pelicans season. Pelicans.com continues its offseason updates by profiling Robin Lopez, who took over as the team’s starter after joining New Orleans in a summer 2012 trade:

Robin Lopez
Key averages: 11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.6 blocks

WHAT HAPPENED
When Lopez arrived in New Orleans via a sign-and-trade deal with Phoenix last summer, his profile was primarily that of a defensive-minded center who had shown limited offensive ability. As his four seasons with the Suns progressed, he went from occasional first-stringer (making 31 starts in 2009-10, when Phoenix reached the conference finals) to strictly a reserve. After the Suns acquired center Marcin Gortat, Lopez came off the bench in all 64 of his appearances in 2011-12. Over his final three seasons in the desert, Lopez seemed to level off as a player, with his scoring average dipping from 8.4 to 6.4 to 5.4. As a first-time member of New Orleans, however, Lopez immediately began showing signs of improvement. The 7-footer set a career high in scoring at 11.3 points per game, the first time as a pro that he’d averaged double figures. He also established career bests in rebounding (5.6 per game) and blocked shots (1.6). Just as impressively, during a season in which New Orleans was often bitten by the injury bug, Lopez was the only player who appeared in all 82 games. This, too, represented an improvement from the past: During his three 82-game Phoenix seasons, he missed 22, 31 and 15 games, respectively.

BEST GAME
Sure, technically it came up one point shy of equaling his NBA career high, but the premier offensive game for Lopez as a pro took place Dec. 26, when he scored a season-best 29 points in a 97-94 victory at Orlando. The Stanford University product was frighteningly efficient against the Magic, going 9-for-10 from the field and 11-for-12 from the foul line. For good measure, he also blocked three Orlando shots, as New Orleans halted an 11-game losing streak.



FIRST PERSON COACH’S TAKE FAN FEEDBACK
"I’ve always been trying to improve my game each season in the NBA. I’m getting that opportunity now. (Offensive improvement is) something I’ve been working on over the past couple years. With all of the playing time and all of the opportunity I’ve been getting here, I’m really having the advantage of trying it on the court. After practicing, that’s the next logical step. It’s me reading the defense, being aggressive and being in the right place, and having my teammates find me." – Robin Lopez "I’d love for him to get a jump hook that’s pretty extended, and for him to be able to make power moves around the basket consistently, where he’s dunking the ball. More important than that, defensively I’d like for him to be a force around the basket, blocking more shots, rebounding more. As active as he is, I think he should be close to double figures in rebounding (average). He’s nowhere near that. That could have had a lot to do with minutes. But defensively, he’s got to become a force for us at the basket. He’s more than capable athletically of doing that." - Monty Williams What was most surprising to you about Robin Lopez’s performance during the 2012-13 season?

@PelicanFever: Robin’s solid back to the basket game really surprised me.

@Helmet_94: His offensive game, particularly his touch from midrange.

@cdude9590: 82 games played.