Welcome to the Brew Hoop’s entirely subjective and emotionally-driven 2019-20 Milwaukee Bucks season player evaluations! Similar to last year’s series, we’ll take a look at each current Buck and ask three questions: what do they do that helps (Boon), what do they do that hurts (Bane), and whether they ought to be on this team (Belonging).
Following his wildly successful first season as a Milwaukee Buck, Brook Lopez came into the year with a bigger contract, and slightly elevated expectations. All in all, he didn’t do all that much to disappoint from those expectations this season, although pre-pandemic his 3-point shooting was certainly well below his career average. However, he made up for some of those offensive deficiencies with an even greater command of Bud’s defensive scheme. He was tactical, intelligent in the few movements he was asked to do, blocked shots at an elite rate and was one of the finest rim protectors in the league.
Brook’s Boon: Defensive Fit
Upon Brook’s arrival, Bud instituted the ideal zone-drop scheme for the 7-footer from Stanford. While Lopez would never be confused for a smallball-5, his size belies a generally nimble big who can contort or flip his feet and body depending on where the opponent is driving. His most indispensable skill is his size, you can’t teach it as the old cliche says, but his intelligence and preternatural ability to work within the space between the midrange and the basket is what allowed this defense to be so successful this season. If he forced the opponent into a midrange pull-up, that’s a win, and he can stick his massive paw up there. If they drove to the bucket, chances were they weren’t gonna score.
He worked flawlessly in tandem with Giannis, allowing Milwaukee’s superstar to retain his roaming role on the helpside. Against 6.3 attempts per game at the rim, Brook allowed just 46.7% shooting, a stingier mark than Rudy Gobert. He even made their defense four points per possession better than their season average while he was on the floor, per Cleaning The Glass, an impressive feat given the Bucks were already the best in the league. His performance earned him second team all-defense honors. That certainly wasn’t the first accolade I pegged Brook for when he came to Milwaukee.
Brook’s Bane: Inconsistent Shooting
In the postseason, Brook shot 39.5% from deep on 5.3 attempts per game. That’s probably unsustainable given his 36% career average. It also papered over what had been an abysmal shooting season for him to that point. He ended the regular season at just 31.4% on triples. If Brook wasn’t hitting those at a more consistent clip, his offensive contributions were dampened. That bears out in Cleaning The Glass’s numbers, where Milwaukee’s offense was barely above its season average while Brook was out there.
Sure, keeping the offense at a top-10 rate is nothing to sneeze at, and defenders still certainly had to respect Brook’s gravity, but Brook’s downturn was indicative of the revealing blight across this roster: it’s composed of merely meh 3-point shooters.
Does Brook Belong?
The discussion, particularly in our lively comment sections, has certainly been intriguing around this very question. I went into the offseason feeling firmly that Brook was one of my “must-keep” players on this roster. He showed up this postseason every game, was their second most consistent offensive threat, and still posed passable enough defense even if his rim protection started to fall apart a bit.
Still, I understand moving Brook is likely the Bucks best option (beyond Middleton of course) for reeling in a bigger fish this offseason. His value is likely at his apex given elder age may set in soon, and if a team is looking for one of the league’s pre-eminent stretch-fives, Lopez would sweeten any sort of deal that also ships out Eric Bledsoe. Not to mention, if Giannis does want to stick around, this team needs to find a way to get younger at some point. The continued punishing of the zone-drop scheme by Orlando was rather irksome, and there have been plenty of calls to try out switching and alternative defenses. Take Brook out of a tailor-made scheme, and how exactly does he fit? I don’t recall him getting roasted all the time when Bud went to switching more often last season.
Brook might be the swing piece in deals. Lots of teams have relied upon backup centers to fill that slot, relying on near minimum salaries to do so. Could Robin serve that role, eating up minutes for the times Giannis isn’t able to serve as a center? I’m not sure, maybe there’s someone else out there who can do so. Personally, I’d keep Brook around barring a superstar deal, which seems unlikely. The Bucks tossed off a player in Malcolm Brogdon last offseason who, when the tough times set in for the postseason, found ways to manufacture buckets. After Brook’s most recent postseason performance, I am wary of losing another.