Suns Goes Old School in the Center. It works.


There’s a style clash in center position in the NBA finals between the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks.

In a league that increasingly favors defensive versatility and smaller guards, the center match between Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez and Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton pits two eras of basketball against each other. Both players are about 7 feet tall, relatively slow and tough on rim defense. They achieved comparable scoring averages in the regular season – Lopez with 12.3 points per game; 14.4 points per game For Ayton – and often used in pick-and-roll.

But Ayton plays like a more traditional center ripped from the 1990s, while Lopez plays like a guard and spends most of his time in the rim ready to shoot 3-pointers. And that clash could be the key to this best-of-seven championship streak, where the Suns cut two games to zero. Game 3 is in Milwaukee on Sunday.

It’s essentially a battle between the Old School and the New School NBA, and paradoxically, the new game is played by the 33-year-old old Lopez. He started his career as a center who spent most of his time near the rim. But as the game evolved, so did it. In the first eight years of his career, he went from rare 3-pointers to scoring 5.2 points per game. In the 2016-17 season. Since then the average has not dropped below 4 per game.

Ayton is 22 years old and in his third season. He scored just 37 three-pointers in 178 regular season games.

Ayton, who had the biggest impact on this series, averaged 16 points and 15 rebounds in the first two games Phoenix won both, with 60 percent shooting accuracy. Lopez is averaging 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds and has been absent for most of the fourth quarter of Game 2.

The success of Ayton, whom Phoenix drafted in the first overall pick in 2018, may have greater risks. In a particularly unusual year, a championship with several stars injured probably won’t change the way team GMs work in one go. But if the Suns win, teams may be more willing than in recent years to feature non-shooting bigs instead of forcing them to be like Lopez.

Rudy Gobert, another slow center of the Utah Jazz, has been exploited once again in the playoffs and this supports the modern trend away from such traditional centers. But Ayton’s success may make managers think twice about what it takes to win in today’s NBA.

The same goes for Lopez. In the past, a slow pivot that didn’t post or rebound had a minimum. Lopez showed that there are other ways to be successful.

Ayton and Lopez aren’t the only 7-footers who just play centers in NBA Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, for example, they’re hybrids of the modern and old NBA because they both play in the hoop and and often Lopez and Ayton Initiates the attack in a way that .

Here’s a deeper look at the contrast between Ayton and Lopez.

All stats are from the regular season unless noted.

Lopez spends significant time as a ground separator to create more driving lanes for Giannis Antetokounmpo, who isn’t much of a shooter. Ten years ago, this was almost unheard of for someone like Lopez, who was expected to camp in paint or set screens.

In the regular season, 45.8 percent of Lopez’s shots It came within 10 meters of the rim. According to Ayton, the number was 76 percent.

Nearly half of Lopez’s attempts (42.8 percent) came from immediate catching and shooting, compared to 15.9 percent of Ayton’s shots.

Lopez and Ayton are used differently on the rim, but both are often used in pick-and-roll.

Ayton averaged 2.2 pick-and-rolls per game, while Lopez had 1.9 per game — roughly 17 percent of both taps. Ayton plays Chris Paul, one of the greatest pick-and-roll quarterbacks ever, but Ayton’s ability to finish in the rim makes him dangerous. Lopez’s shooting makes him a different threat. When he sets up a curtain, a defender must stay with him so he can’t open for a shot.

Another example of Ayton’s more traditional big man game is this: how often does he text: 27.5 percent of Ayton’s possession — 3.4 per game. Lopez rarely did this, with only 11.8 percent of assets he owned post-up or 1.3 per game.

But neither player is particularly efficient. Ayton averaged 0.94 points per post-up, while Lopez was 0.99. Ideally, you want to score more points than you have to make the most of these deals. In terms of context, Embiid, one of the top post-up players, averages 1.08 points per post.

The most unconventional part of Lopez’s game is his rebounds, or kickback. Lopez has averaged less than 5.5 rebounds per game in his last five seasons – an extraordinarily low number for a 7-metre center. Ayton capped 10.6 in a game in three seasons. among the best in the league.

Much of this is due to Milwaukee’s plan being set up to take most of Antetokounmpo’s defensive rebounds and push the ball onto the field. Lopez is skilled at knocking and boxing balls so others can grab loose balls. On the offensive side, Lopez doesn’t get many offensive rebounds as he spends most of his time away.

In today’s NBA, centers like Lopez are no longer always required to be primary rebounders, a radical change from previous eras of basketball, with guards hitting the boards more. The shot became more popular, while the value of the rebound fell.

Despite this, Lopez has never been a rebounding center. He hit 8 rebounds in a game only twice in his career, and that was his first two seasons with the Nets.


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