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Trading Dillon Brooks is probably a bad idea

It just wouldn’t be wise for a variety of reasons.

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NBA: Playoffs-Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to talk about Dillon Brooks, but I first want to talk about my family.

If you’re wanting to get to know me, the first thing you should learn is that I deeply love my family, especially my parents. And how could I not? They’ve just always been there for me and would do anything for me. That doesn’t, however, mean that I always like them. They’re often quick to get on me because of various things, and they can annoy me to no end.

But I would never wish that they weren’t a consistent presence in my life. Even if I don’t always appreciate them, they’ve always given me their best. And the reality is that I would be lost without their consistency.

The people we care about and those we rely on in every area of our lives simply aren’t perfect — no matter how much we may wish that they are. They’ll irritate us, anger us, and even let us down from time to time. Yet the truth remains the same that the people who can irritate and frustrate us the most are often people we would struggle to live without.

NBA: Playoffs-Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

In the aftermath of the Memphis Grizzlies postseason loss to the Golden State, I can’t help but think that Dillon Brooks has become such a person for the franchise — and maybe primarily the fanbase.

Game 4 of that series seemed to be a breaking point of sorts for fans who have long lamented Brooks’ inconsistency and recklessness. It was one of the rare dumpster fire performances to which the stat sheet (12 points on 5-19 shooting) couldn’t do it proper justice; you had to be there and watch every single agonizing ill-advised shot to understand how gut-wrenchingly terrible it was. The fact the Grizzlies would have very well gone on to win the series had they won that game only added insult to injury.

NBA: Playoffs-Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

In many ways, that series as a whole served as an encapsulation of everything that has plagued Dillon (or everything that Dillon has plagued the Grizzlies with) throughout his career. His often-poor basketball IQ was on display when he got himself suspended for a game after stupidly hitting Gary Payton II from behind while was in the air. Game 4 was his mangum opus as far as poor shot-selection and ball-stopping is concerned.

So it’s only natural that Grizzlies fans are a bit tired of the bit. And to a certain degree, they’re right to feel that way. Dillon Brooks must come to a greater realization of his needed role in Memphis. The Grizzlies don’t necessarily need him to be better, rather they need him to fit in.

Because the reality is that he’s probably not going anywhere, at least not for the foreseeable future. He’s simply too important to the Grizzlies in their current form, and it’s unlikely that they would receive comparable value in return for him that also addresses the needs of the roster like he does.

NBA: Playoffs-Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

For all of his antics and issues, the Grizzlies have been significantly better with Dillon Brooks on both ends of the court over the last two years. During that time, the Grizzlies have been 5.1 points per 100 possessions better (85th percentile) offensively when he’s on the court and 3.6 points better defensively (80th percentile). His ability to score from all three levels as well as defend the other team’s best player makes him uniquely invaluable.

As far as the current Grizzlies roster is concerned, Dillon’s defense in particular is what makes him irreplaceable. They simply don’t have anyone else who can provide what he brings on that end of the court. And what he brings is one of the most valuable skills in basketball.

When looking at the four teams who made it to the conference finals, they all had one thing in common: they had at least one big, physical wing that they could could call on to reliably defend opposing stars. Point-of-attack defense is so important the deeper a team gets into the playoffs because stars shine the most when the lights are the brightest. So players who can dim the light of an opposing star become immensely valuable.

NBA: Playoffs-Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

In the case of Dillon Brooks, it would appear that some think that he’s made himself too valuable. A frequent argument I’ve seen for the Grizzlies to trade him is that he may command $20+ million annually on his next deal.

So let’s just hypothetically say that the Grizzlies do decide to trade Dillon for picks to avoid paying him a pricey contract. How would they utilize that extra flexibility to make the roster better? How would they better spend that money? The truth is that there are hardly any realistic options in 2023 free agency who are more talented and would be a better fit in Memphis. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that there are hardly any realistic options in any free agency class that fit those characteristics. No matter how good the Grizzlies become, no one is ever going to be knocking the door down to come to Memphis.

Regardless, it’s easy to appreciate good players when they’re on team-friendly contracts, but the day always inevitably comes when you have to pay good players. That’s just an inevitable symptom of healthy team growth.

NBA: Playoffs-Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Now you could make the argument that this is a Jonas Valanciunas-type situation and that trading Dillon Brooks for picks or young players would be something akin to addition-by-subtraction. But that’s just not the case here. Beyond the statistical evidence that he makes the team better on both ends, it just can’t be emphasized enough that the Grizzlies are a bad on-ball defensive team outside of him. Without him, they ranked dead last in defense through the first month of the season, mainly because they couldn’t stay in front of a traffic cone. Now the defense did stabilize a bit without him later in the season, but that was generally because Jaren Jackson Jr. turned into a Lovecraftian nightmare who atoned for the many sins of the Grizzlies guards.

So unless you’re receiving another defensive stopper or a rising star of some kind (OG Anunony?) in return, it makes no sense to trade Dillon Brooks because, again, there truly is no one on the roster who brings what he does. I’m relatively high on Ziaire Williams, but if you believe that he’s immediately going to turn into a prolific three-level scorer who’s also a legitimate defensive stopper in the absence of Dillon, then you might be too optimistic. It’s also very unlikely that they draft someone in the next year or two who would bring an immediate impact comparable to what Dillon already does.

NBA: Playoffs-Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Grizzlies are just too good at this point to be taking intentional steps back to pave the way for a supposedly better future that may never come. The timeline is now.

So love it or hate it, trading Dillon Brooks would almost definitely be a step back. For all frustrating tendencies and occasional lack of self-awareness, he is a good player who has helped establish the Grizzlies Standard. And he will likely continue to do so.

Because again, sometimes the people who irritate you the most are the people you deep-down know you need the most.

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