With Aaron Brooks now assuming the role of Steve Nash’s backup and possible heir apparent, it’s important to know what the Suns lose in Goran Dragic and what they gain in Brooks.
We’ll take a closer look at the aspects of the game where Dragic is more effective than Brooks, and vice versa. Both point guards are struggling mightliy this season, and Brooks missed 25 games with an ankle injury, so we’ll delve into this year’s and last year’s stats to see how they stack up in a handful of different categories.
Although Dragic has proven he’s capable of ripping off a 20-point game (or 23-point quarter against the Spurs) or two, Brooks is the prototypical, score-first point guard. He’s nowhere near efficient (41 percent career shooter), but he can fill it up with the best of them.
In his 2009-10 Most Improved Player campaign, Brooks ripped off 30 or more 10 different times, while exploding for 43 against Minnesota. When he gets it going, Brooks is tough to stop. Dragic can get into a nice rhythm as well, but Brooks is a flat-out scorer.
Although Brooks can fill it up, his game isn’t nearly as polished as Dragic’s. He scores in bunches, but usually relies on layups and threes. According to HoopData, Brooks is shooting a porous 36 percent from 10-15 feet this season, and an even uglier 28 percent from 16-23 feet.
He doesn’t have the size to rise up over defenders, and his mechanics aren’t built for a pull-up jump shot. Even when he averaged 19.6 points per game last season, 4.6 of his 7.0 makes per game came at the rim or from three-point land.
Dragic is no mid-range maestro either as he still shoots a set shot from inside the arc and only converted on 40 percent of shots from 10-15 feet and 33 percent from 16-23 feet. But mostly because of his 6-foot-4 size, Dragic is a more versatile scorer than Brooks.
This one could really go either way. Dragic owns a much smoother stroke from distance as he shoots a set shot, while Brooks is more of a volume shooter who jumps into his jump-shot triple that features quite the hitch.
Dragic is a 35.6 percent career shooter from three and shot a career-high 39.4 percent last season, and Brooks is a 36.5 percent three-point shooter coming off a career high 39.8 percent season. Both are struggling from behind the arc this season — Dragic shooting 27.7 percent and Brooks 28.4 percent — and neither one has a real advantage in terms of three-point shooting.
Because of his size, Brooks really struggles finishing at the rim. He’s shooting 57.5 percent at the rim this season, which is quite an improvement from the 48.5 percent he shot last season. He has to rely on a variety of floaters to make up for his lack of size, while Dragic is one of the better finishing point guards in the game, shooting 68.1 percent at the rim after shooting 60.4 percent last season.
Although Brooks is the speedster, Dragic is actually better in transition, in large part to his ability to finish and court vision. Brooks is by no means bad on the break, as he’s scoring 0.98 points per possession in transition this season, but Dragic edges him at 1.13 points per possession.
Brooks also doesn’t do a great job leading the break and finishing at the rim. He’s shooting 33.3 percent in transition, but has made 12 of 33 threes, which is the reason for his respectable PPP. Dragic, on the other hand, is shooting 67.8 percent from the field in transition and has attempted only one three on the break.
This could very well change as Brooks will be in a more up-tempo system in Phoenix, but as of now Dragic trumps him in fast-break play.
Brooks isn’t exactly a true point guard, and Dragic has picked up his fair share of passing tips from Nash, but Brooks is actually a better playmaker. He only averaged 5.3 assists as a full-time starter last season, but his playmaking can’t always be seen in his assist numbers.
His speed and ability to create off of the dribble allows him to break down defenses and usually makes something happen — good or bad — with the ball in his hands. Brooks (1.6) is also committing fewer turnovers than Dragic (2.0) this season.
The biggest knock on Brooks is his defense, while Dragic was one of the few Suns players capable of defending the perimeter. Dragic is yielding only 0.87 points per possession overall, and an impressive 0.65 points per possession in isolations that ranks 27th in the NBA.
Brooks, on the other hand, gives up 1.0 points per possession overall and 1.25 points per possession (56.5 percent shooting) in isolation situations, ranking 292nd in the NBA. His size is his downfall and the NBA’s worst defensive point guard (Nash) now has one of the worst backing him up.
Dragic is undoubtedly a more well-rounded player. Brooks is extremely inefficient and somewhat one-dimensional offensively. But his scoring ability outweighs Dragic’s multitude of talents. He proved he can be an effective starter in this league last season and is an upgrade over Dragic.