COMMENTARY | Since the NBA's MVP Award began in 1955, the Brooklyn Nets franchise has never had a player on the roster take home the hardware. That could change during the 2013-14 NBA season.
Now beginning their second season in Brooklyn, the Nets are looking to make a splash in the Eastern Conference after creating a ton of waves by acquiring Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics, and dubbing former Net Jason Kidd as head coach. Brooklyn had a lot of moving parts last season, but one thing remained the same throughout the entire 2012-13 campaign.
A lot of people are dubbing point guard Deron Williams as the MVP of the Nets -- and not to take anything away from the excellent point guard -- but Lopez not only has a shot to be the MVP of the team but also the MVP of the entire league.
Say what you may, but Nets fans have consistently watched Lopez improve his game every season since being drafted 10th overall by the Nets in the 2008 NBA draft. One area where Lopez has really improved is on defense, where he now averages more blocks per season (2.1 last season) and less fouls (2.1 per game) than he did in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, when he averaged 1.6 blocks and three fouls per contest.
MVP candidates are largely based upon their offensive numbers and how crucial they are to their team -- although I don't think the latter matters too much to most voters these days--and those are two of the sole reasons why I believe Lopez has a legitimate shot to be the MVP of the NBA this season.
From a team standpoint, here's how Lopez ranked for the Nets last season on a per-game basis:
Points: No. 1 (19.4)
Rebounds: No. 2 (6.9)
Blocks: No. 1 (2.08)
Player Efficiency Rating: No. 1 (24.8)
Are they gaudy numbers? Not at all, but if you think Brooklyn would have made the playoffs last year without Lopez putting the ball in the hoop and defending the hoop, you're sorely mistaken.
With an improved roster this season -- highlighted by Pierce and Garnett -- not only will Brooklyn be better, but so will Lopez. Just look at what Pierce had to say regarding the Nets' center (via Nets Daily):
"We hope to try to take him to the next level. He can be the best center in the league -- a possible MVP candidate. We can be that presence that can elevate his game."
With so much talent around him -- this is just the first time I'm even mentioning Joe Johnson -- my bet is that Lopez's assist numbers go up this season, which will definitely help in terms of his MVP value. When Lopez gets doubled in the paint, he'll have shooters like Williams, Johnson, Pierce and Terry to kick it out to for the open look.
Now, if LeBron James and Kevin Durant play as well as they did last season, Lopez doesn't stand a chance in the MVP voting, unless his Nets come up with some big wins against the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder during the regular season.
Lopez doesn't have the star value attached to his name, but he's been playing like an MVP on the court of late, and it's time that the league takes notice.
Pete Schauer is a native of the Jersey Shore where he covers the Brooklyn Nets, New York Giants and New York Yankees as a Yahoo Sports contributor. You can follow him on Twitter @Pete_Schauer and find him on Google+.
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