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The Bottom Line of Dillon Brooks

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The “Villain’s” continued development could mean big things for the future

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Utah Jazz v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

For my Grizzlies summer vacation, I’m buying a one-way ticket to Dillon Brooks Island.

That’s of course as long as the creators and gatekeepers GBB’s Parker Fleming and 92.9’s Connor Dunning will have me. All season long, I was reluctant to commit, but, by the end of the Grizzlies first round playoffs exit, I was sold.

  • Big Threes are sometimes created through trades (Boston Three Party)…
  • Sometimes they are made through free agency (Heatles)…
  • And sometimes it’s through the draft (Warriors before Durant)…
  • But, sometimes the third man is someone that you least expect, brother (nWo).

The Grizzlies are potentially moving into a mix of three of them right now. Now, do I think a trio of Ja, Jaren, and Dillon could bring a title to the Grizz right now? Short answer is no. I need to see a better Jaren when he returns from a full offseason, and I can’t reasonably expect playoff Dillon for a full 82 games.

But, I do think the play of DB in the playoffs and the majority of the season does open up the possibility of the Grizzlies trying to add a 4th horseman through a trade that could bring a title parade down Beale Street. That’s because the Grizzlies now know they have a bonafide starter at either the 2 or 3 in Dillon, depending on the direction they want to go in the offseason.

Not only am I doing the season review of the ‘Villain’, but I also had the opportunity to write his player preview. I’m going to use that as a way to craft what I saw from Dillon this season; what that means for the Grizzlies moving forward; and how he’s reshaped the opinion of him in the eyes of the fanbase.

Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Before the season started, I thought in order to get the best Dillon, he needed to come off the bench as the Grizzlies sixth man. Boy, was I wrong. Dillon started the season at the 3 due to Jaren’s injury, and moved down to the 2, once Jaren returned to the starting lineup.

He thrived in both spots for the Grizzlies, and I found it interesting, that according to Basketball-reference.com, DB played more than 80% of his time at the 3 in the regular season, but in the playoffs, it was nearly split evenly between the 2, 3, *and* 4.

Personally, I think he’s best suited at the 3. because that would allow the Grizzlies to try a bunch of different lineup options that way, and gets either Bane or Melton in the starting lineup next season. (I think Grayson is packaged in a deal this offseason).

Coming into the season, Dillon’s biggest question mark was his efficiency — would he continue to be trigger happy, or dial it back a bit and still be valuable on the offensive end?

Well, we got a little bit of both. He did improve his FG% (42%) while posting his highest scoring average (17.2) on the most shots per game (15.4) in his career. Brooks shot the 32nd-most shots on average per game, and only two players who finished above him — Anthony Edwards and Fred VanVleet — shot worse. In fact, of the top 50, there were only three others in that list who DB shot better than — Buddy Hield, Gary Trent Jr., and Coby White. To Dillon’s credit, he did get better as the season progressed, in late-March/early-April, he shot 50% or better from the field in 6 games over a 10 game span.

His game did evolve though — we saw him drive to the bucket more often and be more aggressive on offense. His catch-and-shoot percentage did jump a percentage point, but his shooting percentage on pull-ups did drop slightly.

In the playoffs though, Dillon went scorched earth, and I’ll have more on his playoff performance toward the end of this piece.

Now to where the “Villain” is made and where he hangs his hat — defense. Brooks is routinely tasked with defending the other team’s best player, whether it’s Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, or even LeBron James. In most matchups, Dillon keeps his assignment in check, and at times frustrates them to where they make mistakes on the other end of the floor.

According to NBA.com, he held a who’s who in the NBA to 40% or less from the field when guarding them for at least 20 possessions a game — Curry, Lillard, Giannis, Doncic, Beal, and Paul George to name a few. He also set a career-high in steals per game with 1.2, while his defensive rating was right at the average for his career at 113. He’s the guy you want on your team when you’re up a bucket and the game is on the line.

The reason Dillon is so good on defense is because of his aggressiveness, and in-turn that leads to his weakness on defense — fouls. For the second season in a row, Brooks led the league in fouls with 237, and he fouled out six times this season. He’s got to keep his cool and cut out the dumb fouls because he needs to be on the floor down the stretch.

Grizz fans have known how much of a headache DB can be for the opposing team, but this year was finally the one where there were at least whispers from those who watch the league on him getting votes for All-Defense teams. Those whispers should get louder next season, when more eyes will be on the young Grizz.

It took four seasons, but once the playoff spotlight hit the “Villain”, he knew exactly what to do. It took him just one game to get an entire fanbase to turn on him in Utah.

In his first series, Dillon averaged a smooth 25.8 points per game on 52% shooting from the field, and 40% from three.

I told Justin Lewis on this week’s ‘3 and D Pod’ that his performance felt like one of those by guys in a contract year trying to flip a nice playoff run into a big contract in the offseason.

Luckily for the Grizz, he signed that deal last February.

While he was outmatched by Donovan Mitchell, that should have come as no surprise, because Mitchell is the player who gave him the most fits in the regular season as well. That’s just the way it is, some guys are going to have another guy’s number and that’s the deal with Dillon and Donovan.

In saying all of that, I’m not putting too much into that, as I still think Dillon has the potential to be an All-NBA defender. What I am buying is Dillon’s performance on offense. He looked in control, disciplined, and locked-in. Averaging 25 points per game next season is being a little too greedy, but I don’t think 20+, while improving his FG% to around 44% is not asking too much.


Play-In Tournament - San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

In conclusion, the 2020-21 season for Dillon Brooks was a success. The man is just 25 years old, so his best years are still ahead of him. If he continues to improve as he has been over the past few season, he, along with Ja and Jaren will provide a nice core to build around and lead the Grizz to a Larry O.

In my season preview, I compared Brooks’ relationship with Grizz fans to that of John Cena. Now, I feel it’s more like that of early Stone Cold Steve Austin. The home crowd is 100% behind him, while the away crowd will treat him like Canada treated Stone Cold during his run against the Hart Foundation — absolutely despising him.

Sure, there are a still a few people on the fence when it comes to traveling to Dillon Brooks Island. But, I got my bags packed — one, a suitcase full of sunglasses, while the other has everything else.

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