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Why Robin Lopez fits the Knicks

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

We can first talk about what Robin Lopez doesn't do, if you want.

Are you nodding? I can't actually see you.

Okay, well, Robin Lopez isn't his brother, basically. He's also not LaMarcus Aldridge or Greg Monroe -- he won't create much for himself or others. You don't throw the ball to Robin Lopez and expect him to dance his way to a smooth bucket or attract help and whip a pass to the weak side. Neither is he a defensive rebound-gobbler for his position. Lopez isn't going to attack off the dribble often, nor is he much of a floor-spreader. He is not held in high regard for the smoothness of his scalp.

If the Knicks desired a lot of the above, it's a shame they missed out on Aldridge and Monroe. I'd argue, though, that Carmelo Anthony provides a great deal of that stuff already, and the Knicks are thus better suited by a new friend who complements that production rather than replicates it. That's why I like Robin Lopez!

Here's what Robin Lopez does on offense: He screens. He screens constantly. He screens on the ball and off it, then he rolls hard to the rim (a LOT), or he sinks into space then plows into position. It would behoove the Knicks to work some of that old high pick-and-roll back into their offense (and based on the end of last season, I suspect Derek Fisher is happy to do so), because Lopez has some...well, some Tyson Chandler-like qualities as a threat coming off screens.

When the defense wrinkles, Lopez is there at the basket for an easy feed and finish, either dumping in a wide-based righty hook or just springing forth to smash on somebody's head. If a shot falls off the rim, he's in place to put it back. Blazers Edge wrote a whole post this season about how Lopez's sense of when to float and when to bulldoze benefited Aldridge and company:

A guy like Robin weakens the obstacles between Melo and the basket. He makes threes opener for Jose Calderon, Arron Afflalo, Kristaps Porzingis (?), and perhaps Remaining Capspaceman. He cleans up many of their mistakes, collecting around 13 percent of his team's misses.

There's a chance -- though I wouldn't count on it -- that extra minutes and participation in some Triangle sets unlocks a bit more of Lopez's offensive game. Though he shoots there infrequently, Lopez has shown some accuracy from the high post out to the elbow and corner:


lopez Lopez needn't have that shot, but the Knicks will probably check just to make sure.

On defense, Lopez contests shots. His sense of seams and spacing matters on this end, too, as he's apt not only to trouble his own man, but to slide over and impede penetrators without fouling them. He blocks shots at an adequate rate, and bothers many more. Remember how defensive tracking numbers demonstrated Langston Galloway's absurd shot-thwarting effect early in his career (incidentally, those numbers regressed, but he finished looking plenty fine)? Lopez has a positively negative effect within his realm, too:


(Could definitely close out better, though.)

Those are nice numbers, underscored by opponents hitting just 48% of their shots defended by Lopez right at the basket. He's not among the best rim protectors (that number is around 40% for guys like Rudy Gobert and Serge Ibaka), but he protects that rim just fine.

And while Lopez usually doesn't pull down tons of defensive boards, he's a diligent boxer-outer. Several of you have pointed out Aldridge's noticeable bump in defensive rebounding in the 2 seasons he played with Lopez. These are the "intangibles" and "little things" people speak of when they speak of Robin Lopez. They also speak of "mascot assaults," while we're at it.

A healthy Lopez -- and after early-career back problems, Lopez was the picture of health for most of the last three seasons until breaking his hand in December -- will probably see a few more minutes in New York than he did in previous homes. In those minutes, I reckon he'll stay out of the way on offense, stay in the way on defense, and work his ass off to make life easier for his teammates.

Lopez isn't a thrilling player to watch, and I can understand why his addition feels like settling, but I'm excited to have him around, and I think every single Knick will be happy to join him. He'll help the Knicks win games this season, and New York will have the inside track on keeping him around if and when the time comes to win a *lot* of games.