Anyone who has paid attention to the Trail Blazers this season knows how important Robin Lopez has been to Portland’s success. And anyone who watched the Trail Blazers without Lopez last season really knows the difference the 7-foot center out of Stanford has made in regards to defense, rebounding and general toughness.
One particular area that Lopez has excelled at this season has been offensive rebounding. Last season, the Trail Blazers ranked 24th in total rebounds per game (40.8) and 23rd in offensive rebounds per game (10.7). But this season, the Trail Blazers are tops in the league in total rebounds per game (46.6) and are tied for second in offensive rebounds per game The play Lopez is a big reason why Portland has made strides on the glass this season, and he’s starting to get recongition for it.
Here’s ESPN.com Insider David Thorpe pointing out Lopez’s offensive rebounding as an “under-the-radar” stat this season …
Notable stat: Fourth in offensive rebounds
Labels that were used to describe Lopez in the past were “strange,” “lazy,” “not very skilled,” “doesn’t love basketball.” However, check out the league leaders in offensive rebounds this season. Sitting behind “man-child” Andre Drummond, “elite athlete” DeAndre Jordan and the “world’s strongest post player” Nikola Pekovic, is the “strange” and “lazy” Robin Lopez.
It’s true that Lopez is playing in a perfect system to snatch missed shots; Portland has lots of shooters who spread the floor and plays at a fast pace. He might be a role player on that team, but it takes size and heart, plus agility, to make the kind of impact Lopez has made. That is a huge key for good teams — role players who aren’t just “glue” guys but rather impact players.
Lopez is not just grabbing rebounds in the air, he is outcompeting guys to get those balls. His quick feet and omnipresence inside allows him to make plays on most missed shots, and he has improved his ability to go up and finish those missed shots in traffic. Simply put, he is a problem for opponents who must now account for him in their scouting reports. They are failing to do so thus far.
Let’s hope that continues, though Lopez already having more double-doubles this season than he did in his first five season combined would lead one to believe that opposing teams are going to start paying much closer attention to RoLo in the second half of the season.
Lopez also gets some love in Zach Lowe’s weekly column on Grantland for his performance on the offensive glass this season …
Lopez hasn’t turned the Blazers into anything like an average defensive team, but he’s been sneaky good on offense — as he was last season in New Orleans. He’s looking for his shot with confidence, and he’s destroying the offensive glass. Lopez has rebounded 14 percent of Portland’s misses, the third-best rate in the league, behind only Andre Drummond and Jordan Hill.
But it’s the manner in which Lopez snares these boards as much as the sheer number of them. He doesn’t indiscriminately crash the glass. He understands when a good offensive rebounding chance presents itself, especially when he screens in the pick-and-roll, forcing his defender to slide off him into help position — and opening a lane to the glass.