Dillon Brooks is playing about as well as you can ask of a rookie in the NBA. Let’s all just be honest for a second. As Grizzlies fans, he may be even better in our minds because Memphis never gets the joy of seeing a draft pick actually pan out (or even see the floor immediately).
Regardless, through his first three games, Brooks has shown out. He’s averaging the third most minutes on the roster (behind Gasol and Conley). His points/rebounds/assists numbers are 10.3/2.3/1.3, and throw in two steals a game on top of that. He’s shooting 55% from the field as well.
Long story short, his future, even in this season, looks promising. But what happens when the Memphis roster is not punctured by injury?
Remember, three notable rotation players are sitting out: JaMychal Green, Wayne Selden Jr., and Ben McLemore. Green is a no-doubt starter, while Selden and McLemore both figure to either start or see time off the bench. All three are going to soak up minutes.
Probably more than the average fan, I love seeing Dillon Brooks play so well and get minutes. His scoring ability has been a pleasant surprise, and he defended James Harden and Kevin Durant pretty effectively; that’s huge!
So when the aforementioned three return, who gets the axe?
Andrew Harrison is not an NBA starter. I think we can all agree on that. But the coaching staff kept him around for a reason. So far, Mario Chalmers has been effective as the 6th or 7th man, and that doesn’t look to change. Wayne Selden can play that 2 position better than Harrison at this stage. And probably better than Dillon Brooks.
JaMychal Green will take most of Jarell Martin’s minutes, though Martin has looked like a quality 2nd unit player. Chandler Parsons is slowly beginning to look normal again, so he will take some of James Ennis III’s minutes, and might eventually be a starter. So that moves two more (Selden and Martin) back into the rotation.
Ben McLemore is a wild card. He may play up to his potential which would earn him 20 minutes a game at the lowest floor. His ceiling in this rotation is around 28-30 minutes, but I personally don’t see him ever cracking the starting rotation (barring injury). Take into consideration that McLemore is coming off an injury and it’ll be another two to three weeks until he’s given a shot. By then Brooks could have solidified his role on this team.
Let’s summarize. Green takes over Martin’s minutes, Martin to the bench. Selden takes Harrison’s minutes, Harrison to the bench. McLemore comes back, in my opinion potentially grabs 20 minutes on the bench.
So....where is Dillon Brooks’ role?
Right now, he’s backing up James Ennis III. But when the injuries are healed, the starting lineup could be: Gasol, Green, Parsons, Selden, Conley. So now Ennis gets bench minutes. Tyreke Evans is getting bench minutes. McLemore gets a few minutes. Chalmers gets his. Brandan Wright can throw a double digit total in the mix. That’s five players already and I haven’t mentioned Harrison.
Now, this is not to say that Brooks doesn’t take over one of those spots, and by the looks of it now, he will. But that’s what he’s up against. I want Grizzly fans to be realistic. Dillon Brooks looks like a huge bargain we stole from Houston via this year’s draft (traded for a 2018 2nd round pick).
He is still a rookie with so much to learn, facing an uphill battle to get minutes on this team.
If we’ve learned anything from this unexpected start by Memphis, we have learned two important things: David Fizdale is a wizard and Dillon Brooks is possibly a quality NBA player. The combination of those will equal the right decision moving forward for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Let’s not forget, Ben McLemore is out for at least the next week or two and JaM is out for longer than that. This bridge will not need crossing for another 10-ish games. For now, let’s enjoy this hot start from the Grizzlies and Brooks (nickname still pending).