The Memphis Grizzlies have a slight Dillon Brooks problem so far in the bubble.
There’s no way around it: Dillon Brooks has been brutal for the Memphis Grizzlies in their first two seeding games so far. And while two games is an admittedly microscopic sample size, both contests were extremely winnable, and ultimately swung by one lackluster performer.
Though the stats column will show he’s averaged an acceptable 15.5 points, 3.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game during the NBA‘s official restart in Orlando, Brooks has been very inefficient over that span, shooting 6-for-16 in an overtime loss to the Portland Trail Blazers and 7-for-20 in Sunday’s narrow loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
With both games being decided by a combined seven points, and Brooks shooting 36.1 percent from the floor and a dreadful 3-for-16 (18.8 percent) from 3-point range, it might be time for Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins to lightly suggest he ease up a little.
Before the league suspended its season in early March, Brooks was averaging 15.7 points per game. He wasn’t terribly efficient then either, shooting just 40.2 percent from the floor, but at least he was canning 36.9 percent of his 5.5 long-range attempts per game.
The problem is, with his 3-point shooting falling off a cliff through these first two games, Brooks’ high volume of shot attempts has come to the detriment of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and the Grizzlies’ offense in general.
Before the NBA restart, it was bad enough that Brooks’ team-high 14.2 shot attempts per game topped Morant (13.6) and Jackson (13.0). But even with Morant taking a team-high 20 field-goal attempts a night through these first two seeding games, Brooks’ 18.0 shot attempts per game — second on the team and ahead of Jackson’s 17.5 per game — are far too many for a guy posting .361/.188/.667 shooting splits in that stretch.
In other words, sometimes less is more, and that definitely needs to be the case with Dillon Brooks until he finds a more sustainable rhythm.
The Memphis Grizzlies need to rein in Brooks
It’s not just the poor shooting and the irrational confidence that’s been a problem though; Brooks has made several key mistakes on the defensive end, including his last-second foul on Sunday when he bit on DeMar DeRozan’s pump fake, sending the Spurs All-Star to the free-throw line for the game-winning free throws right after Jackson had hit a ridiculous corner 3 to tie it up.
That foul, of course, came after Brooks had already let DeRozan blow right by him twice — once for a layup and once for a kick-out leading to a Dejounte Murray 3-pointer.
Those defensive mistakes can’t happen late in close games, and one has to wonder whether fatigue played a factor. Because in two extremely tight games that could’ve gone either way, Jenkins has kept Brooks on the court for an indefensible amount of time.
While one might be tempted to argue that rotations have to shorten up in this important games, that the Grizz need Brooks to shake off his recent struggles or that there’s no one capable of filling his spot in the rotation, Memphis does have De’Anthony Melton or even Josh Jackson as potential options to replace some of those minutes.
Even if they’re not on the floor in Brooks’ place late in these games, they’d at least give him a quick breather at some point in the fourth quarter and OT so he’s not so gassed. When players get fatigued, the brain processes plays much slower, and that’s how mistakes get made. That easily could have contributed to Brooks biting on that sneaky DeRozan pump fake in the first place.
In any case, the Grizzlies have a Dillon Brooks problem right now, and unless he starts off the team’s third seeding game on a much more effective note, they need to start reining him in. Starting off 0-2 has put Memphis within striking distance of all five fringe-playoff teams in the Western Conference, who only need to be within 4.0 games to force a play-in scenario. If this problem persists, it might not be long before the Grizzlies’ status as the 8-seed starts to look precarious.