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Dillon Brooks is rising

In the midst of a losing season, a rookie finds his place

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

No one thought the season would go like this.

Sure, there was uncertainty with the new roster, many familiar faces were gone and many unfamiliar ones took their place. Among those new folks was rookie Dillon Brooks. Drafted by the Rockets with the 45th pick and traded to the Grizzlies, the former Oregon Duck wasn’t expected to contribute much. After Memphis acquired Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans and retained Wayne Selden, the wing rotation was supposed to be set. leaving sparse minutes for the rook.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

All of this changed when the start of the season drew near. McLemore fractured a bone in his right foot and Selden suffered a quad injury that kept both of them out for an extended period of time. Brooks jumped right into that first game against the Pelicans and scored 19 points in his rookie debut. The rest isn’t history...

But it feels like someday it may be.

Dillon had to change some of his style of play when he arrived to the NBA, and by all accounts he seems to be well adjusted. Going from being the alpha dog at Oregon to a role player in Memphis couldn’t have been an easy transition, but he has handled it well. He is second on the team in total minutes, behind only Big Spain Marc Gasol himself, while ranking fourth in points and second in three point percentage. His numbers won’t blow you away, but every Grizzlies fan worth their salt knows that Brooks does whatever he can to make an impact in every game he can for this struggling squad.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Dillon has experienced many highs and lows throughout his first NBA season. At times he has scored at will (20 points in the 4th quarter in the March 7th loss to the Bulls) and sometimes he couldn’t buy a bucket (10 games with four or fewer points). Despite the ups and downs of a rookie season, Dillon has had a largely successful year to this point. He was named to Team World for the annual Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend, where he contributed 11 points, 5 rebounds and two assists in Team World’s 155-124 win over Team USA.

But surprisingly enough, Dillon’s best play has been while the Grizzlies were at their worst. In the midst of a 19 game losing streak, Brooks played his best basketball during this stretch, averaging 13.8 points and 2 assists per game. With a lot of key players missing over this unprecedented run of awfulness, Brooks was really able to step up and contribute when the team needed him. Watching him catch fire in the 4th quarter against the Bulls was really something special. He helped bring Memphis back in to a game that they were previously getting blown out of.

While he doesn’t make many flashy passes and isn’t a great defender yet, Brooks has steadily improved his game despite Memphis falling well short of expectations this year. He was given a trial by fire this year and has shown consistent improvement throughout the campaign, establishing himself as one of Memphis’ toughest grinders and most consistent contributors. I have developed a real respect for Brooks. That tends to happen when your favorite player from your favorite college team gets drafted by your favorite pro team. That fact notwithstanding, it has been a genuine pleasure to see Dillon’s growth throughout his first pro season and I, as well as other Grizzlies fans, look forward to watching him grow throughout his career.

Follow @sbngrizzlies