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Dillon Brooks and being an elite role player

Yes, superstars are what makes money, sell jerseys, and wins games. However, elite role players help ease their burden towards a championship.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Whenever you think of the term “elite role players,” many names may come to mind. The old school fan will bring up Robert Horry, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr or Charles Oakley. Anyone that has watched basketball the past 5-10 years will talk about Manu Ginobili, Andre Iguodala, Nicolas Braun, or Draymond Green — the LeBron of this demographic.

Right now, it’s all about finding the future of the “elite role players.” Guys like Marcus Smart, Clint Capela, Otto Porter and Gary Harris look like the future of this category.

Let’s try this on for size: how does Dillon Brooks fit into the picture? Yes, the same Dillon Brooks the Memphis Grizzlies picked up in the second round last year. The same Dillon Brooks that creeped into the starting lineup of a 7-4 Grizzlies team. The same Dillon Brooks that had to play a much bigger role than many people anticipated. The same Dillon Brooks that was the lone bright spot in last season’s tank.

Yes, Dillon Brooks could join this new wave of elite role players.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

“But the Advanced Numbers!”

The advanced numbers run sports at the moment, for better and for worse. Last season, they didn’t treat Dillon Brooks so well. Last season, he finished with a putrid 9.8 PER, 0.224 win shares per 48 minutes, and a VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) of -0.7.

These stats aren’t great by any stretch of imagination, but they won’t determine his career path.

This past season, promising lottery picks Frank Ntilikina, De’Aaron Fox, and Josh Jackson finished with less win shares and with a lower VORP than Brooks. I haven’t seen anyone look at these players any differently because of that, and it shouldn’t change anything for Brooks either.

I compiled some numbers from some elite role players in their rookie seasons, and it should be an encouraging sign for Brooks:

Dillon Brooks Comparison - PER

First Name Last Name PER
First Name Last Name PER
Lamar Odom 16.8
Tony Allen 14.7
Shane Battier 13.9
Andre Iguodala 13.5
Trevor Ariza 13.3
JJ Redick 13
Nic Batum 12.9
Danny Green 12.3
Tayshaun Prince 11.7
Khris Middleton 11.4
Jae Crowder 10.2
Dillon Brooks 9.8
Joe Ingles 9.6
Draymond Green 7.1
Avery Bradley 2.2
Dillon Brooks Comparison - PER

Dillon Brooks Comparison - per 36

First Name Last Name Points per 36 Rebounds per 36 Assists per 36 Steals Per 36 Blocks per 36 3PT%
First Name Last Name Points per 36 Rebounds per 36 Assists per 36 Steals Per 36 Blocks per 36 3PT%
Tony Allen 14.0 6.3 1.8 2.2 0.7 38.7
Trevor Ariza 12.2 6.3 2.2 1.8 0.5 23.1
Nic Batum 10.5 5.4 1.8 1.2 1.0 36.9
Avery Bradley 11.6 3.8 2.7 2.0 0.0 0.0
Dillon Brooks 13.8 3.9 2.1 1.1 0.3 35.6
Jae Crowder 10.4 5.0 2.5 1.7 0.5 32.8
Danny Green 12.5 5.3 1.6 1.9 0.9 27.3
Draymond Green 7.7 8.8 1.8 1.4 0.8 20.9
Robert Horry 12.4 6.1 3.0 1.2 1.3 25.5
Andre Iguodala 9.9 6.2 3.3 1.8 0.6 33.1
Joe Ingles 8.5 3.8 3.9 1.5 0.2 35.6
Khris Middleton 12.5 3.8 2.1 1.1 0.3 31.1
Lamar Odom 16.4 7.7 4.1 1.2 1.2 36.0
Tayshaun Prince 11.3 3.3 3.7 0.8 1.2 42.6
JJ Redick 14.6 3.0 2.1 0.7 0.0 38.8
Dillon Brooks Comparison - per 36

When comparing his numbers to other elite role players as rookies, it’s not hard to say that Dillon Brooks can follow in any of their footsteps.

Not to mention, the numbers don’t even tell half the story.

Dillon Brooks, Elite Role Player of the Future

Dillon Brooks can flat score the basketball, and he’s arguably the most complete wing the Memphis Grizzlies have had in quite some time.

He can score in multiple ways — off the dribble, from deep, at the rim, off cuts, from mid-range. In addition, he can defend multiple positions, a valuable commodity in today’s NBA. He’s a capable ball-handler and playmaker — two skills I’m looking forward to see from him when he’s playing around legitimate NBA talent.

More importantly, Brooks is just a winner. He rejuvenated Oregon’s basketball program, leading them to a Final 4 appearance. You could only sense the raw emotion and the genuine frustration from losing on display in last season’s tankapolooza.

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to highlight multiple aspects of his game and compare them to other elite role players. In addition, I’ll analyze how that particular skill should be used in the Grizzlies’ system both next season and beyond:

  • Versatility
  • Scoring / shooting
  • Playing within a role
  • Defense
  • Playmaking

Go to @sbngrizzlies on Twitter to follow along on this series for the next several weeks.

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