PHOENIX — When the Phoenix Suns acquired Aaron Brooks, they envisioned the speedy point guard lifting the team into the playoffs with the kind of scoring punch the unit lacked all season.
Instead he never looked quite comfortable in a Suns jersey and failed to make a mark on the team. Now the organization must decide whether he fits into their long-term plan or if they would be better served swallowing hard and losing Goran Dragic and a first-round pick for nothing.
Brooks had his moments but not enough of them as he averaged 9.6 points per game on 43.0 percent shooting. He often played well in games Nash missed but never really carried the bench with his scoring prowess as was originally hoped.
After seemingly finding an answer to their age-old backup point guard issue with Dragic’s emergence in 2009-10, the Suns once again could not play without Nash this season and Brooks was a big reason for that.
According to Basketball Value, the Suns lost 9.15 points per 100 possessions with Brooks on the floor unadjusted and were -4.87 adjusted. Dragic was slightly worse in both categories but both ranked at the bottom of the team thanks to the lack of floor time they shared with Nash.
Efficiency is a big problem for Brooks. He was particularly horrid in Houston this season where his 46.5 true shooting percentage would have ranked him 319th in the league had he shot that bad all year. That’s a big reason why Brooks put up a -0.124 WP48 with the Rockets, according to Nerd Numbers. For those more familiar with traditional stats, Brooks shot less than 35 percent as a Rocket.
Brooks was certainly better in Phoenix as he upped his true shooting percentage to .489 on the season and produced a -0.012 WP48, which is not good but also isn’t quite so bad as his Houston numbers.
Now the Suns must decide if a player of Brooks’ skill set fits their future, and largely that means is this guy the Suns’ point guard of the future?
A season ago Brooks was viewed completely differently after scoring a hair under 20 points a game on his way to earning Most Improved Player honors. But his breakout campaign serves as the best-case scenario for Brooks’ future: a guy who can score bushels of points with middling efficiency if given lots of shots.
We saw that Brooks at times with the Suns. He was superb in Boston on March 2 when he scored 17 points to dig Phoenix out of a big hole and he played well 11 days later against Orlando when he scored 19 points in a game missed by Nash when he was responsible for a large portion of the offense.
When he can shoot himself into a rhythm, find his spots and just go, Aaron Brooks is a very effective scorer.
“He’s had his moments from the standpoint of open-court scoring, and we can see what we can do there, and I think we’ve got to see if he can run our team and be able to put guys in the right spots,” Gentry said.
There’s no question that Aaron Brooks can get his own offense, but he didn’t do enough to get his teammates offense. He struggles to make interior passes due to his height, which also makes him an easy target to be taken advantage of on defense, and on days his shot isn’t falling he’s a major liability.
From here it becomes a question of what kind of dollars/role does Brooks want and think he can get on the open market. When the trade was first made, I questioned the wisdom behind it due to the fact Brooks is likely looking for a big payday and starting job as a restricted free agent this summer (assuming there still are restricted free agents under the new CBA).
I still feel if a team makes him a sizable offer, say anything over $4-5 million a year, I let him go. Consider him a sunk cost, forget about Dragic and the pick and move on.
But if he’s willing to play that backup point guard role and make a backup point guard salary, I’d be willing to see if the Aaron Brooks experience can work in Phoenix. He does excel in a transition game and in theory is the type of player that can ignite a bench.
Gentry has said many times that he would like to see what Brooks can do with a full training camp rather than being thrown in the fire immediately after the trade was consummated.
If the market isn’t there for Brooks, perhaps he would consider coming back to the Suns on a one-year deal at a lower price to rebuild his value in Phoenix’s up-tempo system. Such a deal would be smart for the Suns as he would immediately become attractive trade bait as well with a couple solid months.
If that’s not the case, Phoenix should just chalk up the Brooks deal as a loss rather than trying to make him their point guard of the future.
The Suns already made one mistake by trading for Brooks and they cannot compound it by overpaying him, which would be a crucial error for a team already paying too much future money to a squad of role players.
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