Brook Lopez is cool, calm and collected. But most importantly, he is diabolical. The 11-year NBA veteran has certainly found a comfort zone with the Milwaukee Bucks and has revitalized his career. Three years ago, he adapted to the game by adding a three-point shot to his repertoire. Now, he’s taking it a whole new level.
Lopez is perfecting an evil method that takes equal advantage of his ability to hit DEEP shots (he ranks 13th in the NBA by hitting 179 shots from 24+ feet out) and Mike Budenholzer’s five-out offense . I call it the Lopez Trot.
Splash Mountain often lumbers up the floor in the most unassuming and nonchalant way possible. In fact, he’s so slow the defense often forgets about him. This tortoise-like pace is an intentional act of destruction on his behalf. And it’s extremely effective.
He’s been doing this for some time now, but let’s check out how he was able to affect Tuesday night’s shellacking of the Houston Rockets.
Midway through the first quarter, the Bucks found themselves in need of some quick points. Following a defensive rebound, Pat Connaughton quickly pushed the ball up the floor. As he surveyed the defense, he recognized that Clint Capela, the man charged with guarding Lopez, had strayed a bit too far from his assignment.
At first glance, Capela’s defense appeared to be appropriate for most centers. However, Lopez isn’t most centers and would soon make Capela pay. The Bucks’ big man recognized early on what was happening as well and slowed his pace down to allow Connaughton to catch up.
Connaughton recognized what was happening as well and astonishingly picked up his dribble only a couple of feet inside the half court line. In one motion, he continued to whip a skip pass at chest level across the court and hit Lopez perfectly in stride for the deep three. It caught Capela by surprise and he wasn’t able to recover in time to appropriately contest the shot.
Lopez doesn’t only plod up the floor on missed shots, he’s also added the trot into his tool belt on made baskets as well. And it’s just as effective.
Eric Bledsoe promptly received the inbounds pass and quickly pushed the ball up the left side of the floor. As he did so, three of his teammates were in line with him, but someone was missing. Someone big. Regardless, the Bucks continued to go about their business as usual and spread themselves out across the perimeter.
Bledsoe probed the defense as if he’s looking to attack and get to the rim. However, this was purely a scare tactic that forced Houston to react and collapse on the head-banded demon.
You may not realize this, but that is in fact Lopez in the far left of the picture. As soon as Bledsoe drew Capela into the paint, he looked for the big man trotting up the court. Lopez caught the pass in rhythm and buried the deep three from the top of the key. Yak Yak!
This ploy doesn’t always result in a three for Lopez, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. Often times, the big man’s pure presence is enough to entertain the defense and prevent them from collapsing in the lane.
On this play, the villainous Lopez walked up the court as he schemed his next move. However, the ball never got back to him and that’s perfectly okay because the damage was caused nonetheless.
Despite Lopez just crossing the half court line, the Rockets’ defense treated him as one of the other Bucks standing on the arc. Instead of sinking into the lane or helping on the ball-handler, they stayed disciplined and tight to their man. This allowed the other Bucks a wide open lane if they chose to drive or a one-on-one opportunity as you see here.
A lot of times it may look like Lopez is being lazy or not hustling. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
This is one of the many examples of the artistic creativity Budenholzer allows his guys to play with. He trusts them to try different approaches in order to gain an edge on their opponent. I’d be surprised if the “Lopez Trot” hasn’t been discussed amongst teammates and the coaching staff as part of a calculated strategy to maximize Milwaukee’s floor spacing. And it’s only one example of the many meticulous strategies NBA teams employ.