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Season in Review: MarShon Brooks gets Buckets

If you haven’t heard yet, this guy is a bucket getter.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

MarShon Brooks 2017-18 Stats

Category Number
Category Number
G 7
PPG 20.1
RPG 3.1
APG 3.6
SPG 1.6
FG% 50%
3PT% 59.4%
FT% 87%
PER 26.3
WS/48 0.181
All numbers via Basketball Reference
Brandon Conner, nba.com/stats

At this point you probably know MarShon Brooks’ story. A first round pick forgotten by the NBA, the 6’5, 29-year-old guard out of Providence took his talents to China where he played for three seasons and averaged basically 36 points per game on 51 percent shooting for the Jiangsu Dragons (per Real GM).

“When you playing in China,” Brooks said after beating the Portland Trail Blazers on March 28, “one thing I can say is that I’ve had the ball, and I’ve shot a lot.”

After the Chinese basketball season ended, Brooks signed a 10 day contract with the Memphis Grizzlies and subsequently scored 20 or more points in five consecutive games, earning him a multi-year contract with the team.

There may be a lot of noise to his numbers. First and foremost, seven games is a very small sample size. Not only is it a small sample size, it’s not really enough time for the rest of the league to figure him out and prevent him from being such an explosive scorer. On top of that, he joined a team at the end of the regular season when other teams may have less incentive to try hard because they’re already eliminated or locked into a certain playoff seeding or outright trying to lose. For these reasons, it’s best not to read too deep into his advanced numbers.

However, Brooks showed exactly how valuable he can be. He is a bona fide scorer, someone who can weave his way through a defense, twisting and contorting to get to the rim, unafraid to chuck a deep three. He is confident in his ability to score and he can do it in many different lethal ways.

He was arguably just as good, if not better than another bench dynamo for the Grizzlies this year: Tyreke Evans.

Brooks’ signing to a two-year deal was a particularly underrated move for the Grizzlies. With Brooks under contract for half as much as Evans (who, by the way, vastly outperformed his own contract this season) he acts as insurance if (probably when) Evans leaves in free agency. This may end up being an important storyline to follow next season, depending on how Brooks plays for a full season.

Best Game

Considering he dropped 20 or more points in his first five games, no one would fault you if you picked any of those performances. However, I’m going to choose his very first game with the franchise, a game I covered for GBB.

It was not technically Brooks’ best game as he scored a season high 25 on two separate occasions. But the overall shock of his outstanding play coupled with his relative unknown status by fans made his sterling 21 point outing on seven of 12 shooting from the field and a perfect five of five from deep that much more of a wild ride.

That’s not to mention the fact that his 14 fourth quarter points on four of four shooting from three essentially single handedly lifted the Grizzlies to a five point win over a playoff bound Blazers team. He outdueled C.J. McCollum, who finished with 42 points, when it mattered most and sent the FedExForum into a frenzy with his fourth quarter performance. His play that night was one of the brightest singular moments of an otherwise dismal season, and for that and every other reason posited above, I believe his coming out party was his best game.

Worst Game

Either one of his final two games, take your pick. He was a -9 in 32 minutes in a 19 point loss at the Minnesota Timberwolves. He scored 14 points but shot four of 16 from the floor and committed five turnovers and three fouls. He did create two steals and five assists while shooting 50 percent from deep. But clearly not his best night.

Nor was the following Wednesday when the Grizzlies fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder by 14 points. It was the only game in which Brooks did not score in double digits, and he shot 30 percent from the field in order to get his nine points. He collected four rebounds and managed two assists and two steals, but also gave the ball away three times resulting in a +/- of -4 in 23 minutes.

Neither of these games were total bombs. A couple off nights for an ambitious scorer are bound to happen. But... they’re not good looks in such a small sample size.

Ways to Improve

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s what I’m worried about. We all know Brooks is an excellent scorer. What happens next year when he actually has to defend someone? Will Grizz Nation turn on him like they did Troy Daniels? Will the Grizzlies put him in a position where he has to defend (i.e. flank him with better defenders and hide him on the opponents worst offensive wing)? I have a creeping suspicion that when fans recognize his poor defensive play that they will begin to shun him, and I don’t think that’s what any of us want.

Additionally, how will he perform once teams get enough film on him to scout his weaknesses? How will he play with the weight of a full NBA season on his shoulders? If the team brings Evans back (doubtful, but possible), how would those two mesh? Could they form a fire breathing dragon from hell off the bench or would their styles clash to the point that one of them (read: Brooks) would be relegated to the bench?

These are all legitimate concerns, but also all possibly overreactions. Brooks will be in his prime next year, and with a larger sample size, I think we’ll be able to see just how good he can be for this team next year.

2017-18 Overall Grade

This is somewhat of a conundrum. There is no denying that Brooks far exceeded expectations this season. He was oftentimes the best player on the floor in terms of talent and single game performance late in the season for the Grizzlies. He made it perfectly clear that he is an NBA player and quickly outgrew his 10 day for a guaranteed two year deal. For these reasons, I would like to give Brooks an A rating.

However, he played in just seven games. That’s not enough to make accurate analytical projections for a player. Additionally, as pointed out earlier, there’s a lot of noise to his numbers, and he’s a net negative on the defensive end. We don't know if he’ll be able to repeat this type of sustained brilliance again next season. For these reasons I would like to give him a C.

So I’ll compromise.

Grade: B+