Which current NBA players are breaking the mold? There’s superstars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and a handful of others, but which stars are defined by how they change NBA drafting strategies and team construction?
I could argue that Draymond Green is the defining player of this generation in that he’s a pass-first defensive stalwart who rips apart opponents with great passing and ruins every one else’s offensive possessions with physicality and smarts. He’s the axel grease that gets the Golden State offense in motion, while also forming the backbone of one of the league’s best defenses. Every team wants that guy at the 4 who can get the ball swinging around the arc until it reaches a sniper from 3 or a dunker at the rim.
Brooks is a gamer. Starring on an absolutely loaded Oregon Ducks team, Brooks was the Pac-12 Player of the Year as a junior in 2016-17, beating out lottery picks like Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and Lauri Markkanen. Oregon won 32 games, grabbed a 3-seed in the NCAA tournament and went all the way to the Final Four, something that hadn’t happened to the Ducks since the first-ever tournament 77 years ago. His sophomore year saw Oregon take a 1-seed into the tournament, and Brooks featured heavily in that team’s success, too.
It was Brooks who made last year happen. Notably, he hit multiple game-winning shots, including a dramatic 3-pointer over Ball of UCLA as the Ducks knocked off the second-ranked Bruins in late December.
Although Brooks was essential to the past two seasons, he fouled out in his last game, a heart-breaking loss to UNC in the national semifinal, scoring just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting. Had he been able to stay on the floor, maybe he could have helped the Ducks grab some rebounds in the last two possessions of the game. Remember it was Oregon mistakes which thrust UNC into the national title game, which they won.
Brooks scored a ton in his three seasons, finishing his career with 1,612 points. Brooks, as described by our SB Nation bretheren at AddictedToQuack, often took turns guarding the opposing team’s star, but was said by DraftExpress.com to play more of a “centerfield” style of defense. In a perfect Oregon defensive possession, someone might try to post up or isolate against Brooks, who forms a wall, which then allows the hyperathletic Jordan Bell to swoop in and block the contested shot. This is a defining characteristic of Brooks: he’s best as part of a team, not a guy who would dominate in NBA Draft combine testing. He’s not a tremendous leaper, not super quick and has a disappointing wingspan for a forward. But he’s solidly built and very versatile, especially on offense.
Brooks’ assist numbers are very good, shown in the way he got things going for Oregon’s dynamic offense. That team was so loaded that Brooks had no problem scoring 16 points and totaling almost 3 assists in only 25 minutes per game. His minutes were actually a much lower number than his sophomore season due to a combination of foul trouble and Oregon blowout wins. Plus, Brooks had surgery on his left foot, causing him to miss some practice time in late summer and the first 3 games of the 2016-17 season, which may have been responsible for Oregon’s minutes distribution, too.
Brooks can isolate with powerful drives and is willing to shoot from anywhere, anytime. I think he’ll have a tighter shot selection in the NBA and focus more on finding space and angles to make plays for others, but don’t forget he scored 1,600 points in just three seasons.
Brooks, another Canadian stud who attended Findlay Prep (Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph) outside Las Vegas, is a guy perfectly suited to a more defined role in the NBA. He’s got tremendous international experience, leading Canada to a silver medal in the 2015 Pan American games when our northern neighbors beat the USA. Before that, he starred on Canadian U18 and U19 teams. So, Brooks has already been around the block and has produced everywhere he’s been.
Dillon is also known for his leadership qualities, fiery personality and general attitude. Again, our friends at AddictedToQuack call out his motivation, passion and desire. For instance, Brooks immediately apologized to Duke head coach Mike Krzkwzewski in the 2016 NCAA tournament when he took a late 3 with the game already decided in Oregon’s favor and the clock running out - college coaches hate this and Coach K let him know in the handshake line afterward, but Brooks was apologetic and respectful in a moment when he could have acted differently. I know I would have told Coach K to shove it.
The flop heard round the world
Dillon Brooks also did this:
Could he be the next Draymond-style, distributing 4? He has parts of that in his game, and he comes with a more consistent scoring ability and mentality, too. Physical limitations might scare teams away, but he’s played with high-level talent before and could fit in with any team looking for defensive wing help and a good IQ.
At the fortieth overall pick in the draft, the New Orleans Pelicans could do a whole lot worse.