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Dillon Brooks can play within a role

Not everyone can be the best player, right?

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

This piece is another continuation of my Dillon Brooks series where I break down how he can become an elite role player. I’ve dissected his offensive versatility and his scoring potential, and now I explain how this part of his game can transform him and this Memphis Grizzlies squad.

Finding and sacrificing a role makes or breaks a lot of talented basketball players once they move to the NBA. Sometimes, the discomfort from shifting to the team’s best player to just another guy is too much, leading to an inevitable departure from the game. Other times, players sacrifice for the betterment of the team, and it pays dividends in the long-run. In addition, it prepares players to take on different roles when called upon.

This is an area where a lot of elite role players have thrived. For example, Marcus Smart, a focal point at Oklahoma State and a top-10 draft pick, played a huge role off the bench for the Celtics, which in turn has transformed them into an Eastern Conference frontrunner. Jae Crowder has served both as a key starter and reserve for quality Boston and Utah teams. Draymond Green usually lets the Splash Brothers and Kevin Durant do their thing, but occasionally breaks out when called upon.

This past season has prepared Dillon Brooks from filling that do-it-all role for the Memphis Grizzlies, something no one really expected from the mid-second-round rookie. However, due to a series of unfortunate events, Brooks is prepared to follow down a similar path to guys like Smart, Crowder and Green.

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

Back in the 2017 Summer League, Brooks served as a spark-plug off the bench, generally helping the team with high-IQ plays on both ends of the court. However, he did break out one game for 24 points and scored in a variety of ways, easing the burden off primary bucket-getter Wayne Selden.

This past season, Dillon Brooks had to do anything and everything. In his NBA debut, he surprised everyone with a 19-point performance, showcasing his scoring prowess from Oregon. At the beginning of the season, he played a role in the Grizzlies’ superhuman bench mob that shredded even the league’s elite. Because he played around good playmakers like Tyreke Evans, Chandler Parsons and (at the time) Mario Chalmers, Brooks served as a spot-up shooter and a cutter — what we thought would be the case all year long.

A little before Conley went down, Brooks made his way into the starting lineup, because Andrew Harrison was horrible with Fizdale as coach — ironic, I know. He played a similar role there, except he was also tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player — from CJ McCollum to Klay Thompson to James Harden to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

After Conley’s injury, Brooks played a variety of different roles, showcasing his Swiss-army knife versatility. A lot of times, he was a secondary scorer and playmaker next to Marc Gasol and Tyreke Evans.

Once the tank really came into full force, Brooks became the team’s go-to scorer and delivered — even though it usually resulted in losses. He averaged 15.2 points after the All-Star break, including a whopping 20.8 points in April — along with 4.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists.

Brooks’ variance in tasks last season will play a huge role in his development, as he’s simply prepared for any type of role next year. If the Grizzlies elect to go with Garrett Temple in the starting lineup, Brooks has played a bench role before and is now used to taking on go-to scoring roles, making him a viable 6th man option. Now that Conley is back, he’d be the perfect 3rd or 4th option in the starting lineup next to him and Gasol. If either Conley or Gasol is having an off shooting night, he can step up to the plate and deliver some buckets that might actually yield some wins.

Tanking is frowned upon and leads to a lot of losses both on and off the court. However, one of the few positives was Dillon Brooks’ performance. Playing him in these peculiar roles will only help him and his team, as he looks to become an elite role player in the next great Grizzly team.

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