There’s no hiding that Goran Dragic is mired in a major slump as his once-promising third season is in a downward spiral. But although his production decreased, Dragic was the perfect fit in the Suns’ system.
He was capable in the pick and roll, showed range out to the three-point line and thrived out in transition. Dragic hasn’t been knocking down shots or making as many plays, but his game was tailored for the Phoenix Suns’ system.
With Aaron Brooks now taking Dragic’s place as the Steve Nash’s backup and possible heir apparent, you have to wonder — how will the 6-foot, 161-pound speedster fit in with the Suns?
Brooks is certainly a liability defensively and an inefficient chucker of sorts offensively, but he’s, in a way, what the Suns needed in this second unit. Between Jared Dudley, Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat and Hakim Warrick, no one truly demands the ball.
But Brooks is a playmaker who won’t be shy with the basketball, taking control of a second unit that’s lacked direction and consistency all season long. Aside from that, what will Brooks need to do in order to flourish as Phoenix’s backup and possibly its point guard of the future?
Penetrate to score and to kick
The second unit never really featured anyone who could make plays for himself. Dragic was capable from time to time, but he doesn’t have the first step and quickness to get into the lane, or the elevation to rise above a defender.
Brooks, on the other hand, is a guy you can go to when the offense breaks down. Speed kills, and Brooks has plenty of it. Below he blows by a defender and drops in a nice scoop shot over two defenders.
He may not score, but he is at least a threat to make something happen, which the Suns couldn’t always say with Dragic at the helm. Here’s Brooks again, this time blowing by Pau Gasol after a switch. You can see his unmatched quickness as Gasol truly has no chance.
Although he shoots too many, Brooks is also capable of drilling the open three to keep the defense honest, making him that much more of a threat driving to the hoop.
It also helps that a penetrate-first point guard is surrounded by so many shooters. He’ll have Dudley and Pietrus spotting up with the second unit — 22.7 percent of Phoenix’s offense comes out of spot-up situations.
So penetrating and kicking is clearly one of the Suns’ main offensive weapons, and Brooks should be able to be more than sufficient in that area. Houston is fourth in the NBA in three-point attempts per game, right behind Phoenix, so Brooks won’t have to adjust his style of play too heavily.
Pick and Roll Play
If Brooks wants to be a factor with the Suns, he needs to run the pick and roll effectively. He hasn’t proven that capable this season as he’s shooting 40.5 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three out of the play.
The pick and roll is only 12.8 percent of Houston’s offense, while it makes up 20.8 percent of the Suns’ offense. But Brooks does prefer the pick and roll, as it makes up 30.3 percent of his plays, which is more than any other play type. In comparison, however, Nash runs the pick and roll over 50 percent of the time while Dragic ran it 33 percent of the time.
Phoenix ranks second in the NBA in pick-and-roll-man scoring, proving how great Nash is at feeding his big man the ball in the right spot. The Rockets rank 14th, and Brooks isn’t exactly known as a top-notch pick and roll player as a passer or scorer.
He turns the ball over 19 percent of the time as the pick and roll ball handler and struggles with decision-making. Below he goes 0-for-2 in the pick and roll, missing the roll man once and turning the ball over on his second try.
Brooks’ vision isn’t great in terms of hitting the roll man, or kicking it to the open shooter, which is a huge part of Phoenix’s offensive attack. Here Brooks gets into the lane and tries to find Chase Budinger on the wing. Brooks doesn’t see Shawn Marion and decides to make the almost cross-court pass that turns into a turnover and a layup. Brooks’ vision and decision making are below average.
Lastly, Brooks comes off a screen and picks up the ball about 35 feet from the hoop. It’s taught in grade school that you never pick up your dribble that early, especially so far from the hoop.
Needless to say, Brooks may succeed scoring out of pick and roll situations, but he definitely needs to improve his pure point guard skills to run the pick and roll effectively in Phoenix.
Manage the game
This doesn’t exactly require any basketball skills, but rather IQ and a calm demeanor. Brooks is fresh off a season in which he averaged 35.6 minutes per game and played in crunch time of almost every game. He’s played in big college games at Oregon and won’t get flustered when the going gets tough.
Dragic, on the other hand, failed to get the Suns into their offense at times and struggled with confidence during his tenure. He showed up on the grand stage in the playoffs, but was too inconsistent in terms of managing the game. If Brooks wants to keep his backup job safe from Zabian Dowdell, he needs to show he can manage the game.
Tags: Aaron Brooks