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GBB Q and A: Dillon Brooks’ ideal role

Let’s take this moment to pause and reflect

Atlanta Hawks v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Just a few months ago, a world away, a virus was detected in China and the response was slow enough to allow an initial spread.

Now? The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has become a pandemic, sending global markets in to a tail spin and igniting all sorts of fears about what day to day life will become if things do not improve. The NCAA tournaments will be played in empty arenas...if they are played at all. There are actors like Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks being diagnosed in Australia, while in the United States the positive test for the virus of Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz answered the question of “to play or not to play” in front of the NBA for them.

Stop waiting to see what happens. Start acting so what is happening in Italy and elsewhere doesn’t become the new normal - at least for the short-term - here.

Before the NBA’s (correct) decision to suspend play, I reached out to our wonderful followers on social media and wanted to let them ask some questions of me and GBB. Folks responded so well that we were able to make it a two-part affair - we answered some of the questions on the latest episode of GBBLive (which you can listen to here, or in the player below), which makes for fun listening since it was recorded before the suspension of play for the NBA. Other questions that weren’t answered there will be answered in this article.

So escape the pandemic for a moment, and let’s look at the state of things for the Grizzlies - as asked for by people on Twitter and Facebook - entering a very uncertain period not just for the NBA, but for the U.S. and the world at large.

We will combine these two, as the first question directly connects to the second in a way.

First? Kyle Anderson and Gorgui Dieng figure to be among the top names on the trading block for the Grizzlies this summer, assuming a relatively normal off-season does happen eventually. In the case of Anderson, he is a great facilitator from the forward position and has terrific versatility as both a wing and front court defender. He contributes to winning basketball in ways that scoring stats don’t always reflect - his +2 net rating is good for third on the team among the ten players that have played at least 500 minutes for Memphis this season, and his win shares per 48 minutes (.095) is fifth among those players. For a team as young as Memphis, that sort of presence from a veteran player in the prime of his career has value.

So why may he be traded? He was a signing by the previous regime during a time where defense and a return to “Grit and Grind” was being hyped. While defense is still a priority of course, new Grizzlies leaders Zach Kleiman and Taylor Jenkins are clearly prioritizing playing with pace and launching threes in the name of creating space to attack the paint and rim. When your nickname is “Slo-Mo” and you have never been a threat as a three point shooter, both in terms of attempts (1.1 per game) and conversion percentage (25.8%), it stands to reason that Kyle may not be longed for the next generation of the Grizzlies.

For Dieng, it’s a similar argument but in a different way. Dieng is a much better threat as a three point shooter than Anderson (35.9% this season, but an ice cold 22.7% in 12 games with Memphis), but he is nowhere near as able to be lineup malleable as Anderson. Dieng is a center - playing him and Jonas Valanciunas together is nearly impossible to do for an extended period of time. If only one center can be played at a time - spoiler alert, in 2020 that is indeed the case - Jonas is the priority, with Jaren Jackson Jr. essentially being the best “backup” option when the team is healthy. Brandon Clarke, the aforementioned Anderson, Josh Jackson, Justise Winslow...all would be better options for those forward minutes than Dieng.

The possibility of combining the two in a larger deal - along with multiple future 1st round picks - or simply shipping out one and picks to try to acquire a scoring wing to add to the Grizzlies long-term is a very real one. What would that get you? On the low end, maybe a Malik Monk or Miles Bridges from the Hornets could be in play, or a Terrance Ross from the Orlando Magic or Norman Powell from the Toronto Raptors. Higher up? Buddy Hield, Zach LaVine, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal could be in the mix. You can argue all are unlikely to be traded right now, but a lot can change between now and February of 2021 - the next trade deadline for the NBA. Memphis is set up to make a move if one presents itself.

Anderson and Dieng seem to be the most likely to be traded if a deal does indeed go down. Would they be traded to keep De’Anthony Melton or Josh Jackson? Doubtful. Memphis can pay Melton what will likely be market price ($8 million or so per year) even after their deadline deal for Winslow and Dieng (and essentially Jontay Porter), and Jackson - while he has played well of late - still carries a lot of baggage. Even if Memphis wants to retain him, the best deal they can offer is for one year and $8.9 million since the Grizzlies opted out of his rookie deal. Another team could offer better guaranteed money and/or more stability in terms of a multi-year contract. Because Josh has had the start to his NBA career that he has, he’d be foolish to ignore a deal like that if it came his way.

He’s had success in the organization. What’s that worth? We’re probably about to find out.

A fascinating question, one that I have pondered for a long time. Dillon Brooks is, by all accounts, outplaying his supposed skill level in terms of athleticism. He’s earned the contract extension he signed and then some, being a source of offense where Memphis needed him most. He’s an underrated reason why the Grizzlies are as far ahead in their “process” as they are.

Yet he has shot a miserable 36.3% from the field over his last ten games for Memphis, and 32.8% from beyond the arc. While that’s only roughly a few percentage points off from his season numbers (40.2% from the field, 36.9% from three), it feeds in to the idea that most have already established about Brooks - he’s a valuable, but streaky, source of offense that can defend multiple wing positions effectively.

Wouldn’t that be nice to have coming off the bench?

Imagine a core reserve unit of Tyus Jones, De’Anthony Melton, Dillon Brooks, and Brandon Clarke. The potential is pretty potent, and could serve as the makings of a contending unit. A starting five of Ja Morant/Justise Winslow/Jaren Jackson Jr./Jonas Valanciunas/insert scoring wing here, plus those four, would be a force. Fill in the roster with draft picks and/or veteran minimum deals, and the best part about those nine is they could be around for years to come.

The main issue, potentially, would be Dillon accepting such a role. He’s been a starter for 84.2% of his games with the Grizzlies, and Brooks’ confidence is such that he would potentially take a move to the bench as a demotion, rather than a chance for his skill set to fully shine. The perception of such an change should be more “Lou Williams Sixth Man of the Year potential” than “I am not as good as a theoretical Grizzly Buddy Hield or Zach LaVine”. That’s realistic at this stage, too - the Clippers model of Williams and Montrezl Harrell could fit a Brooks/Brandon Clarke pairing. Different skills, but similar potential impacts.

The big swing for the “third star” fences will likely come via trade. Memphis has assets to make a move for a top-50 in the NBA player that’s also a scoring wing, and Dillon’s offensive firepower would be very attractive as a leader of a bench mob alongside Clarke. He’d be able to command a higher usage rate without taking away from Ja Morant and others, and defensively wouldn’t be asked to carry such a burden by covering the best offensive option on the wing for the opposition almost every possession.

It’d likely be the best thing for Dillon’s career. Brooks agreeing would be the only potential hurdle...and considering how hard working and committed to the team Dillon has been, it probably would not be too big of an issue.

As we enter this uncertain time, rest assured that GBB will remain a safe place for Grizzlies fans to read about, listen to, and talk through Memphis Grizzlies content. We also will, at times, simply posts threads for folks to talk as social distancing becomes more of the norm. The games have stopped for now, but we’re still here. Stick with us, and stay safe.

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