Slowly emerging from the shadows of his more heralded brother Brook with some extremely impressive play over the past six weeks, Robin Lopez
is establishing himself as a pretty legit prospect in his own right lately, one who could make a dent on mock drafts as well, especially now as his team is about to embark on the Sweet 16.
Lopez seems to be improving considerably from month to month as he acclimates himself more and more to college basketball. Hes playing virtually the same amount of minutes as he did last season, and is taking a similar amount of shots, but is scoring at a substantially better rate (over 25%), mostly thanks to his improved efficiency from the field (upping his FG% from 48 to 54%), as well as the fact that hes getting to the free throw line more often, and converting better there too. Weve seen a substantial amount of progress from Lopez within the season as well, and in fact seems to be playing his best basketball here in March, scoring 16 points per game in the NCAA tournament thus far, on 74% shooting.
Offensively, Lopez remains a fairly raw prospect, but he still manages to drop intriguing hints of potential from time to time with various moves he makes. He likes to post up on the left block and turn to his right shoulder primarily, and his big hands and solid agility allow him to slither his way around the basket and get shots off in ways his stiffer brother cannot. One interesting move he goes to a lot is a fluid, but unconventional half-hook, half-one-handed jump-shot, palming the ball and throwing it in the basket with range out to about 8 feet. He has a decent turnaround jumper in his arsenal well, and generally seems to make quick moves in the post without thinking a great deal, which is nice to see from an emerging big man. His excellent hands are a real asset here, and hes able to get his team all kinds of scraps around the hoop just by putting his length, size, mobility and solid activity level to use, especially on the offensive glass. He runs the court well, and seems to have solid toughness, not backing down from anyone, and not being afraid to throw his skinny frame around.
Lopezs footwork is nothing to write home about, and he doesnt have the type of strength needed to consistently establish position in the paint yet, even at the NCAA level. Hes a good, but not a great athlete, able to get off the ground to finish around the hoop, but not really exploding, and thus being again limited by his lack of bulk. His focus and decision making isnt always quite there, and its not rare to see him committing various turnovers or violations, traveling, committing offensive fouls, spinning into double-teams, taking bad shots, etc. Hes clearly still a work in progress. It would help him to add some kind of a face-up game, as he doesnt appear to have any range or touch to speak of on his jump-shot, and hes also not a great free throw shooter at the moment. His feel for the game is pretty good, thoughas you can see at times with the type of passes he makes out of the post, especially to his brother.
Defensively, Lopez has outstanding potential, and already makes quite an impact at the NCAA level. Hes a fiery player, much more emotional that his brother, and will get caught up in moments when he looks possessed on the defensive endgetting low in his stance on the perimeter, smothering players with his length, contesting every shot, being extremely physical, and locking up the paint with his terrific shot-blocking skills. His intensity seems to waver a bit, though, at times giving up far too much space for players to establish position in the post, biting on pump-fakes, and doing an extremely poor job defending the pick and roll. If he learns how to maintain the same intensity for every minute hes on the floor, he will at the very least be a terrific big man for an NBA team to be able to bring off the bench and provide energy, particularly with his shot-blocking skills. He has the upside to develop into a bit more than that, though. Lopez is a good offensive rebounder, but hes not nearly as effective on the defensive end. Oddly enough, his twin brother is the exact opposite, so its quite possible that they are evening things out between them. Nevertheless, this is an area he needs to improve on, as it obviously wont be his offensive game that gets him on the court.
Although he would clearly benefit from another year in college, particularly with his brother out of the way, which would allow him to play more minutes at his natural position (center) and see more offensive touches, that might not be the case when its all said and done. It seems like he might want to declare for the draft as well, especially if hes projected as a first round pick, as expected. A lot of that will probably come down to how he plays this weekend in the Sweet 16, with his first test coming against #2 seed Texas.