The Portland Trail Blazers finally got the veteran center they’ve been desperately needing. Robin Lopez was squired during a three team trade that involved the Blazers, Sacramento Kings, and New Orleans Pelicans. Lopez is a 5-year veteran who averaged 11.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in 2012-13. With a contract of $5.1 million, this is a “more bang for your buck” trade.
Lopez, the twin brother of Brooklyn Nets All-Star center Brook Lopez, recorded nine double-doubles, shot 53.4 percent from the field and registered a team-high 128 blocks for New Orleans.
The initial report had the Trail Blazers acquiring Lopez for merely nothing more than a couple of second round draft picks and some cash. Later, when one of those second round picks turned out to be 2013 second-rounder Jeff Withey though, the excitement was a bit more subdued. While many are excited about the move to get a veteran center presence on the team, many were hoping it wouldn’t be at the expense of losing Withey — known for being a shot-blocking specialist.
In four years with the Suns, Lopez endured a variety of ailments, including a foot fracture, a bulging disk in his back and knee problems, and never played more than 67 games in a season. In 242 games with the Suns — including 94 starts — he managed to score 20 or more points just twice.
Happy and healthy in New Orleans, Lopez carved out a larger and more successful role under coach Monty Williams. He scored 20 or more points 10 times, including during a pair of monster performances against two of the NBA’s best centers. On Dec. 22, against All-Star center Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers, Lopez recorded 24 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks. Then, on March 22, Lopez had 23 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks against the Memphis Grizzlies and Marc Gasol, the 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year.
Getting Robin Lopez is a very low-risk move, financially, and will create a two-year window of development for Meyers Leonard. If Lopez can repeat and build on last seasons performance, then the Blazers will be playoff-ready.
Lopez is a legit starting center. Just what the Blazers have desperately needed. He’s young and doesn’t need the ball. The Blazers don’t have time to sit around and develop a starting center in Meyers Leonard. If they sit around and wait, they risk losing LaMarcus Aldridge in a year. The Blazers need to build a playoff-ready team around him now.
If Lopez keeps getting better, he will be a major anchor for the team.
With this trade you can clearly see the rebuilding process speeding up. Are the Blazers landing another injury-prone player Lopez? Or did they squire a starter on the rise? Only time will tell.