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2020-2021 Memphis Grizzlies Player Preview: Dillon Brooks

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Is this the year the much maligned wing wins over the fan base?

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Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Dillon Brooks is arguably the most polarizing Grizzlies player since Chandler Parson signed a four-year deal in 2016. Many at Grizzly Bear Blues have stronger opinions on DB than I do, so maybe I’m not the best person to write his preview - or maybe that makes me the perfect one to do it.

The trigger-happy wing has spent three seasons with the Grizzlies. Toward the end of his rookie year, it looked like Brooks was coming into his own. But knee and foot problems in the 2018-19 season kept him from building on that potential.

Enter 2019-20: Brooks came into the season, full of confidence, and had a career year in his third season. Brooks has the tendency to shoot without a conscience, and that can sometimes keep the Grizz in the game, as well as shoot them out of it. It can also draw praise, as well as ire from Grizz faithful. For the wrestling crowd, it sometimes feels like a John Cena match --- ‘Let’s go Dillon’, followed by ‘Dillon sucks.’

Now while I don’t think many Grizzlies fans actually dislike Brooks, there is a feeling from some that he may be better suited in a different uniform. I am not one of those, and I hope you’ll hear me out.

Here’s how I see Dillon Brooks playing a key part to the Grizzlies’ success this season.

Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

2019-2020 Overview

Last season, Dillon started in all 73 games for the Grizzlies. He set career-highs in pretty much every category, except for field goal and 3-point percentage. In fact, Brooks’ FG percentage dropped by nearly four percent from his rookie season in 2017-18. He took 14.6 shots per game. That is third to guys who averaged 29 minutes or less per game – Zion Williamson and Derrick Rose were the other two.

Dillon’s production was unpredictable, inconsistent, and sometimes volatile last season. There were peaks and valleys throughout. For instance, over an eight-game stretch in January, Brooks averaged 23.1 points on 50% shooting. The following nine games, he averaged 9.7 points on just 28% from the field.

You have to take the bad with the good when it comes to Brooks, as his game continues to mature, so will his shot selection and his tendency to just let it rip.

Projected Role

Due to the injuries to Justise Winslow and Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon will begin the season as the Grizzlies starting ‘3’. Once they return, Brooks is expected to move back to the shooting guard position, where he spent the majority of last season.

During the preseason, we have seen a lineup with Dillon at the ‘4’ as well, so he could see increased minutes compared to last season due to his ability to play at three spots. In saying that, I think it’s safe to say that Brooks is a shoe-in to average at least 28 minutes a game.

He will once again be relied on for his 3-point shooting, as well as defense.

Season Best Case Scenario

Western Conference Play in Game - Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The best-case scenario for DB is that we see more of what we are seeing in preseason. So far, he has been more disciplined on his shooting and he is looking to get his teammates involved more. His assist to turnover ratio has also improved. Last season it was basically 1:1, and in the preseason, it’s nearly 3:1. I know this is a small sample size, but is encouraging.

If Dillon is able to play within himself and not try and do too much, the sky is the limit with the Grizzlies. The maturity of Brooks will directly impact the growth of both Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. and could allow the Grizzlies to continue to stay ahead of schedule.

It’s important to note, while it does look like the Grizzlies will begin with Grayson Allen starting at the ‘2’, the best lineup of returning players with Dillon in it, is Ja/Jonas/DB/Kyle/Melton. Last year, that lineup finished +8.6 per 100 possessions. It wouldn’t surprise me if that ended up being the closing lineup until Jaren returns.

Season Worst Case Scenario

For Dillon, the worst-case scenario is that he finds out just how long his leash is from Head Coach Taylor Jenkins.

The depth at the wing position is good for the Grizzlies, but could be bad for Dillon. If Dillon tries to do too much, and doesn’t improve his shot selection, he could find decreased minutes.

It’s true the Grizzlies need a consistent threat from deep, and Brooks is the most likely to provide that. But, it’s possible they could find that elsewhere – whether it be Grayson Allen, Desmond Bane, or as we have seen in the preseason, Kyle Anderson. If that happens, that’s when Brooks’ playing time could be in trouble.

Barring an injury, I don’t see Brooks’ role changing that much; at-worst, he would be moved to the bench, but still providing 20+ minutes a game.

2020-2021 Memphis Grizzlies Content Day Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Overall Expectations

Grizzlies fans should expect a lot from Dillon this season. He was rewarded back in February with a 3-yr/$35 million contract extension, so he isn’t playing for a deal this upcoming offseason.

I expect Dillon to improve his field goal and 3-point percentage this year, while averaging about 16 points per game. I also think his assist to turnover ratio improves and he cuts down on his fouls.

For some fans, it may take Dillon Brooks turning into an All-Star before they are satisfied. But, if he can be a guy the Grizz can rely on to get a bucket or two when they need it, without shooting them out of the game, I think that’s fine.

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