Jason LindWith all the additions to the Nets roster and coaching staff this offseason, it is easy to lose sight of what the team already has.
Paul Pierce recognizes career-long Net Brook Lopez as someone who could not only be his most valuable teammate, but the most valuable player in the NBA.
“We hope to try to take him to the next level,” said Pierce on Wednesday, according to the New York Post’s Fred Kerber. “He can be the best center in the league – a possible MVP candidate. We can be that presence that can elevate his game.”
“Playing against him, he’s always been competitive and skillful,” said Kevin Garnett of Lopez. “He’s very strong, has a lot of skill, has range.”
The 25-year-old Lopez, approaching his sixth year in the NBA, was named to his first All-Star team last year. He was arguably the most consistently productive center in the league on offense. Lopez averaged 23 points per 36 minutes last season, the highest total of anyone at his position. And he did it all while shooting slightly over 52 percent from the field.
Lopez could learn a lot from Pierce and maybe even more from Garnett. On top of that, both have skill sets to complement his style of play. Pierce proved long ago that he could score with defensive pressure, but in the absence of Rajon Rondo last year he also led the Celtics in assists.
Garnett rightfully maintains his reputation as a disruptive defender. He was the only substantial contributor on the Celtics last year who dipped the team’s defensive rating under 1.00 points per opponent possession. With Garnett on the floor, the Celtics outscored opponents by 112 points. With Pierce, it was by 122.
Add in Andrei Kirilenko, the newest Net with a reputation as an eager and able defender, and Lopez will have an excellent opportunity to improve his offensive numbers.