Last season, the Milwaukee Bucks made the playoffs in spite of a complete lack of production from the center position.
Defensively, the Bucks allowed opposing centers to average 16.4 points on 56.0 percent shooting along with 10.2 rebounds per contest. Those categories ranked worst, third-worst and sixth-worst respectively.
After Greg Monroe’s contract was bought out midway through last season, Milwaukee relied heavily on John Henson, Thon Maker and Tyler Zeller to get the job done down low.
Henson averaged 8.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 25.9 minutes over 76 games. Maker played in 74 games, but was ineffective, scoring 4.8 points while bringing down 3.0 rebounds in just 16.7 minutes per contest.
Zeller played a minimal role, scoring 5.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 16.9 minutes over 24 contests.
Although the Eastern Conference clearly doesn’t have the talent to match up with the West, especially since LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, there are a number of talented centers that consistently had their way with Milwaukee on the low block last season.
They include Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, Jonas Valanciunas of the Toronto Raptors, Enes Kanter of the New York Knicks, Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat and Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons. Considering the fact that Dwight Howard will be with the Washington Wizards and rookies Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba of the Orlando Magic look legitimate, the pressure was on for the Bucks to make a positional upgrade.
On Sunday, it was announced that Brook Lopez will sign with the Bucks. Jordan Shultz of Yahoo Sports revealed that his one-year deal was was worth $3.4 million, the bi-annual exception.
Last year, Lopez signed a one-year, $22.6 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers and put up 13.0 points and 4.0 rebounds over 23.4 minutes per contest.
While he’s a far cry from a dominant center at this point in his career, the 30-year-old should be a popular target of Giannis Antetokounmpo due to his long-range shooting ability. After going 3-for-31 from three-point range over the course of his first eight NBA seasons, Lopez went 134-387 (34.3 percent) from deep in 2016-2017 for the Brooklyn Nets and then 112-325 (34.5 percent) last season for the Lakers.
Therefore, he will instantly pose a legitimate three-point shooting threat on the perimeter and should draw opposing big men to the perimeter, which should result in more high-percentage looks for Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe, who can blow by anyone to attack the rim.
Lopez should start and will likely play a major role for the Bucks in the fall. Henson will probably spell him in defensive situations, since that’s where he excels. Maker could also be in the mix as well, thus creating the possibility that three players split the 48 minutes at center in Milwaukee.