Does Robin Lopez's Performance Warrant a Spot in the Starting Lineup?

Does Robin Lopez's performance warrant a starting spot? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Wizards continued to struggle in the absence of key players Saturday night against the Mavericks.

It was questionable whether Bradley Beal would be available, but Scott Brooks said he was surprised to not have forward Rui Hachimura on the floor due to right shoulder tightness. There weren't many positives to take away from the team's play, except for one strong performance from center Robin Lopez.

The Wizards lost their third consecutive game by double digits and were outscored by 51 points in their last two. Without Robin Lopez, that disparity could've been even starker. 

After the game, the Wizards Postgame Live crew tackled a tough question: who should start at center in Washington's next game against the Raptors, Alex Len or Robin Lopez?

"It's been a struggle with the starting lineup," Jason Smith said. "I know Robin Lopez is doing a great job off of the bench. He's been producing. He's been consistent off of the bench."

Lopez, 32, hasn't been a huge contributor off the bench for the Wizards this season, but on Saturday, he exploded for 18 points, surpassing the two 16-point games that put him in the conversation for the starting spot. Wizards analyst Chris Miller highlighted that the big man is shooting 77% in the last three games, a statistic that will be hard for Scott Brooks to ignore when he's putting together the lineup that will face the Raptors on Monday.

"If I didn't know any better, I thought we were watching Tony Massenburg's era of great basketball, which was the 90's," Miller said in reference to his co-host. "We saw 7-footers taking it back to the old school, but you love his work. It's just something that you can rely upon, it's going to be steady."

Len, Scott Brooks' No. 1 choice at center over the past 12 games finished with zero points in 13 minutes, one of two Wizards starters that didn't score against the Mavericks. Lopez played the bulk of the game in his season-high scoring performance.

"I think the way Robin is playing, there is a consistent window of time that equates to production. So if he's in that 18 to 22 minutes, however you want to distribute it. Do you want to have his name called first or do you want him to come off the bench? Either way, I think what Robin has done these last three games, you're going to get that either in a starting role or with him playing reserve minutes," Miller said.

Len and the Wizards have an opportunity to bounce back Monday when they travel to Tampa to take on the Toronto Raptors. Len was let go early in the season by the Raptors before signing with the Wizards.

"I think Alex Len has a great opportunity going against his former team that let him go early in the season in the Toronto Raptors. But I think you keep rolling. Keep those bigs going. Got to give them equal minutes," Smith said.

Whether Scott Brooks stays the course with Len or gives Lopez the nod, continuing that production at the rim and hopefully building on it with a more healthy backcourt will likely be the focus heading into Monday.


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