Many of us have seen the Toy Story series, right?
Woody, the main character, is Andy’s favorite toy and best pal. They did everything together, and Andy thought the world of Woody. That was until Andy got Buzz Lightyear and didn’t want to play with Woody anymore. It took Andy nearly losing Woody for him to love him again.
At the beginning of Toy Story 4, they run through clips of Bonnie playing with Woody — or “Mr. Cowboy,” as the little girl calls him. When they finally move forward to the current setting of the movie, Bonnie is too busy playing with other toys, and Woody gets left in the closet.
Dillon Brooks is the Memphis Grizzlies’ Woody.
(Then, there’s some smart guy racing to the comments saying that Grayson Allen is the team’s Forky).
Once considered to be a young player worthy of potentially becoming a cornerstone of the team’s future, an influx of young talent coming to Memphis has left Brooks as an afterthought for many people. It is hard to blame them when they have young cornerstones in Jaren Jackson Jr., Ja Morant, Brandon Clarke, and — potentially — Josh Jackson, as well as great young veterans in Jae Crowder, Jonas Valanciunas, Kyle Anderson, and Tyus Jones.
In the midst of this chaotic year for the Memphis Grizzlies, there are been a misconception of his value, both from the optimistic and pessimistic sides.
On the optimistic side, I understand why your expectations were — or, are — high. Brooks was the first good rookie since OJ Mayo in 2008. Having a young player to somewhat believe in for the first time in a decade could create lofty expectations.
On the pessimistic side, his production was suspect last season even though it was a lost year. And young players with higher upside arriving might cause someone to just throw him to the wayside.
Dillon Brooks might not be as good as many thought he would be after his stellar rookie season. However, he’s not irrelevant to the team’s future, like some may think.
Good Stats, Bad Team?
Dillon Brooks’ rookie season was actually really damn good considering where he was drafted. Nobody expects much out of a 2nd round pick in general, let along the 45th pick.
He entered the starting lineup before the 10th game of the season, in the middle of the Grizzlies’ hot start. Mike Conley’s injury derailed the season, and Dillon Brooks was thrown in the fire.
He responded quite well.
Brooks played all 82 games, averaging 11 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists on a 44.0/35.6/74.7 shooting line in 28.7 minutes per game. He also displayed the ability to score at multiple levels, as he became a deft shot creator and finisher at the rim throughout the season. Defensively, he was tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best player, more because of circumstance than ability. However, he did an admirable job, considering he was a rookie.
So the optimist saw his rookie performance and maybe declared him to be a future star. The pessimist would bring up this question - was this a case of “good stats, bad team”?
In a sense, yes. He’s not going to be a second or third option on any team, because if that’s the case, I don’t know how many games your team is winning. However, Brooks showed he can score at a NBA level. If he can be an efficient scorer on this Grizzlies team — where guys like Jaren, Morant, and Valanciunas will take the majority of the shots — that’s pretty good for him and Memphis.
To put it simply, you know your season was off when the highlight of your year was a botched trade.
There were a lot of attributing factors to his sophomore slump. For one, JB Bickerstaff relied on veterans far too often. We saw that with his preference of closing games with JaMychal Green instead of Jaren Jackson Jr., and by riding with Shelvin Mack while Jevon Carter sat on the bench. It was no different for Brooks, as Bickerstaff preferred to give Garrett Temple big minutes.
Secondly, he got hurt at the beginning of the season and was sidelined for 21 games. Then, he came back for only 7 games before being sidelined for the rest of the season with a toe injury.
The inconsistent minutes and the injury bug prevented Brooks from entering a rhythm, causing his sophomore year to be a lost season.
So, What Are We Supposed to Think of Dillon Brooks?
Dillon Brooks may never become the player many in Grizz Nation thought he’d become after his rookie season. However, he also isn’t as bad as many people might think, despite his sophomore slump.
Will he improve on his scoring from his rookie season? Not necessarily, but he can definitely be more efficient. Think for a minute - the point guards Brooks played with during his rookie season were Andrew Harrison, Mario Chalmers, and Tyreke Evans. Think about the offense system he was in as well.
With pass-first, up-tempo guards in Ja Morant and Tyus Jones, and in a more pace-and-space oriented system, Brooks could find easier, more open scoring opportunities from downtown, off basket cuts, or from running the floor.
There is a market for players of his archetype. He could play either wing position. Though he doesn’t possess the elite defensive tools to be a stopper, he’s definitely going to work his ass off on that end. There’s promise in him becoming a 3-and-D player, and his ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket as well is valuable when attacking closeouts.
Dillon Brooks can still be a solid contributor for the Grizzlies. Granted, does he become the elite role player I wrote a 6-part series on last year? Extremely debatable. By the time the Grizzlies are a playoff team, could he be the 7th man in the rotation? Absolutely.
Don’t write off Dillon Brooks just yet. He can be a nice role player for the next era of Memphis Grizzlies basketball.
Stats found on basketball-reference.