By Max Feldman
Dillon Brooks chose to forego his senior season at Oregon, and entered the 2017 NBA draft following leading the Ducks to the Final Four in Glendale, Arizona. The Houston Rockets selected the 6 foot 6 forward with the 45th overall pick, and immediately traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies. The 45th pick has been used in the past to snatch up some big time steals such as the Heat’s Goran Dragic and the Clippers’ Lou Williams. Fast forward almost a year, and just about every NBA team is wondering how Brooks slipped into the middle of the second round.
Brooks has been slept on for much of his basketball career and continues to prove people wrong at each level. Coach Melnik from Father Henry Carr High School in Etobicoke, Ontario coached Dillon for three seasons prior to his departure for Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nevada. He told NPH, “Dillon vastly improved every aspect of his game. He has done that at each level from high school to college and now to the NBA. He has always had incredible energy, intensity and emotion.”
Known for his flair, clutch gene and competitiveness during his collegiate career at Oregon, those traits remain an integral part of who Dillon is now and what he can potentially become. Elias Sbiet, NPH’s national scout, said, “He’s taken it to another level. You really see the dog in him. He doesn’t back down to opponents.”
Brooks was the only rookie in the NBA who played in every single game, and was one of twenty seven players in the league who accomplished this feat. From the jump, Brooks looked to be a steal. In his first NBA game the Mississauga native dropped 19 points in 29 minutes, the most points scored by a Canadian born player in his NBA debut. He also ranked within the top ten of rookies in both minutes per game and points per game. Brooks managed to set a Canadian rookie record on the very last night of the season also, when he poured in 36 points in 33 minutes. On the season Dillon Brooks put up 11 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 28.7 minutes per game.
CBS Sports listed Brooks at number ten in their final NBA rookie power rankings, the only second round pick on the list. “Brooks was tasked with much more responsibility, and showed poise that we’d expect from a three-year college player. He stayed within himself on the offensive end, shooting 44 percent from the field and 36 percent on 3-pointers, while drawing difficult perimeter defensive assignments all season long.” (CBS Sports)
Dillon’s game has evolved in many ways, as he has transformed into a wing with incredible versatility. Elias Sbiet said “His final year at Findlay Prep he really started to develop his game. At Oregon, he started to handle the ball and improved his three. Most did not think he’d make it this far and play as well as has. He has always had this ridiculous persistence and work ethic.”
The Memphis Grizzlies went 22-60, and are headed for the top of the 2018 NBA Draft. With Mike Conley going down with a significant injury and David Fizdale being dismissed early on in the season, Brooks provided the Grizzlies front office with some source of direction. He played the fourth most minutes per game for the Griz and was their fourth leading scorer. He was the Grizzlies lone “iron man” and started 74 of the 82 games.
Though Dillon Brooks had a strong season individually, he has brought team success at each level previously, and it won’t be long till he is a catalyst for a successful franchise rebuild. Coach Melnik told North Pole Hoops, “He hates to lose more than he loves to win; and he does it with a big smile on his face. He’s always a great teammate. It’s clear that Dillon sees himself as a leader on a young squad. He’s a leader who will consistently work on his craft to make everyone around him better. He’s a pro’s pro.”