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Blazers rolling along with RoLo

Portland benefits from Robin Lopez's many skillsets on court

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer
Published: October 20, 2014, 5:00pm

Maybe he’s starting from the low block or perhaps he just set a flare screen on the wing.

It doesn’t really matter from where, because Robin Lopez is coming to the ball to screen for a teammate.

In the grand scheme of Portland’s offense at it’s best, it won’t get the attention. But it’s importance, according to the guys on the floor with him, is just as big as any of them.

Pull up jumpers for Damian Lillard, open looks for jumpers for LaMarcus Aldridge, corner-threes for Wesley Matthews, drives to the rim for Nic Batum. All these things can start from the most forgettable of plays.

“It just opens everything up. When he rolls, we got playmakers that come off the screen,” Matthews said. “RoLo’s diving and rolling to the basket is a real intricate part of our offense.”

Causing a problem with pick and rolls has become the norm in NBA offenses, but how good Lopez has been in a Blazers uniform isn’t.

It’s not uncommon to hear in the locker room that Lopez doesn’t get enough of the credit for the team’s turnaround last season, where he mainly scored rolling to the basket or on second chances.

“It all connects,” said head coach Terry Stotts, illustrating roles of each player in the offensive attack.

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“He sets really good screens because he’s so huge and takes up so much space it’s hard to recover after one of his screens,” Lillard said. “And I think the fact that he’s a real threat in the paint — a guy like him rolling who has good hands, a high percentage in the paint finishing off a lot of pick and rolls.”

Lopez was the league’s most efficient finisher in the pick and roll last season per Synergy Sports among bigs who had 200 such plays. He also had the highest individual offensive rating on the team by a wide margin, according to Basketball-Reference.

“He has a really good knack for moving into the open spaces,” said Steve Blake, who has played with another great pick and roll finisher in Dwight Howard. “He sets good screens and he gets out of them quick. For a point guard, to have a big that understands how to set the screen but then how to get out of the screen sounds simple but it’s not. He has a real knack for it.”

“In all the time I played basketball he is the best screener with Joel Pryzbilla I’ve had in my life,” said Batum who instantly developed pick and roll chemistry with Lopez, even inspiring it’s own nickname: Nic and RoLo.

“We had this great connection together because I know if we play the pick and roll 10 times, seven or eight times we will have a good situation to score. Good hands, left hook, right hook.”

Aldridge raved about Lopez and there was certainly a difference from when Lopez rolled to the rim last season.

“It just takes my man to the rim,” Aldridge said. “My man has to help, so it makes it a big roll with Rolo and then Nic goes to the rim, my man has to tag RoLo.”

Lopez gives Portland one of the best options in the league. There are few front court tandems that compliment each other much better.

“It’s great to have LaMarcus as an option because he’s obviously our number one option and a guy that’s obviously going to attract attention,” Lillard said. “And then I come off RoLo and you know when he’s just almost as effective in the pick and roll situation it makes it a lot better for me as a point guard.”

Lopez’s ball screens, when he gets the ball and when he doesn’t, are an avenue for all of Portland’s great weapons, to reach their fullest capacity.

Columbian Trail Blazers Writer