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Can Dillon Brooks remain consistent with subtle successes?

Can “Dillon the Villain” transform into Dillon the Opportunist for the Grizzlies as the season progresses?

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NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies enter Friday at 12-9, getting ready to welcome De’Anthony Melton back to Memphis as the 76ers come into town on Friday. The Grizzlies also are looking to bounce back from one of their more disappointing performances of the season on Wednesday against Minnesota. Hopefully, the Grizzlies will be able to get December started with a victory.

As has been discussed many times, the parallels between the start of this season and last season for the Grizzlies are aplenty. However, one significant difference is that the Grizzlies have benefitted from the presence of Dillon Brooks this season (unlike last year when he was out to start the season due to injury.) In many ways, Brooks continues to perform and impact the game as he always has thorughout his career.

However, there are a few subtle changes in his approach have shown signs of improvement this season.

Defensively, Brooks remains effective as ever:

Furthermore, the impact of Brooks for the Grizzlies defense as a whole is critical. When Brooks is on the court, the Grizzlies defensive effectiveness is in the 93rd percentile of all NBA lineups. When he is off the court, that effectiveness drops to the 6th percentile of all NBA lineups. While it may be a stretch to say he is indispensable to the Grizzlies current approach in games, it cannot be denied how important Brooks’s defense is to the Grizzlies success.

Offensively, at least on the surface, the overall productivity of Brooks remains similar to his career metrics. On the season, Brooks is shooting 40% from the field on 16.4 shots a game, along with 33% from three and 72% from the charity stripe. Each of these percentages are slightly below Brooks’s career marks, but remain very similar to his usual performance.

Furthermore, the offensive inconsistency by Brooks for certain stretches remains. Even this season, in different three or four game spans, Brooks has shifted from clear offensive asset to, at times, an infuriating offensive liability. The polarizing tendencies of Brooks, especially offensively, should come as no surprise to Grizzlies fans. In a contract season, he remains who he has always been: a clear defensive asset whose offensive incosistencies make it hard to truly peg his overall value as a player.

Memphis Grizzlies v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

However, in a few subtle yet significant ways, Brooks has continued to evolve his game this year to become a more valuable contributor when he is a clear asset both offensively and defensively. For one, the three point shot has become a more emphasized aspect of his offensive game. Since the start of the 2020-2021 season, Brooks has regularly averaged between 15.5 and 16.5 shots per game. This season, 6.3 of those shots are coming beyond the arc. The majority of these shots are of the catch-and-shoot variety, with Brooks making 36.6% of those specific attempts. If Brooks could improve his overall 3P% to settle in between 35% and 37.5%, which he has shown he can do in the past, that could mean he would average 2.5 threes a game. That would be a welcome addition to the Grizzlies overall three point approach once Desmond Bane returns.

And yet, the subtle improvements in Brooks offensive game is not just limited to taken more valuable shots. It also comes from limiting his mistakes and making less negative plays. Brooks currently is producing the second-lowest turnover percentage of his career and the lowest foul rate of his career. This obviously is significant as it means Brooks is minimizing the number of times he is negatively impacting the Grizzlies offensive performance. Furthermore, especially in terms of fouls, it is allowing Brooks to stay on the court longer, as he is averaging more than 30 minutes played per game for the first time in his career. This means the Grizzlies can benefit from his defensive impact for longer stretches of the game.

Finally, Brooks is becoming a more consistent playmaker for others than he has been at any point in his career. Though he actually had a higher rate of assists last year, the consistency at which he is making better decisions when a good shot is not available is clear. Brooks has produced three or more assists in six straight games, which includes five straight games of four or more assists, the longest such streak of his career. Combining his overall improvements of setting up his teammates more and limiting his turnovers, Brooks’s ability to impact the game offensively when he is not shooting arguably is at a more valuable level now than it has previously been in his career.

Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Again, the key word to these changes and evolutions in Brooks’s offensive game is subtle. But make no mistake, the fact that there are multiple changes happening at the same time means they are significant improvements. Whether it is his approach when shooting or showing more consistency to add value with his ball-handling and decision-making, Brooks is showing the effort he has made to work on his craft is paying off.

Over the past few years, Brooks has mentioned many times about wanting to shoot more threes, improving his handles, and involving his teammates. While it did take time, the fact that all of these aspects of his are improving at the same time is allowing for Brooks to provide more offensive value and consistency, even if his overall numbers may not be that different from his career. If Brooks can continue to maintain this subtle changes to his game, it should continue to result in success that will pay off for him in multiple ways this season and beyond.

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