Held out of action much of this summer after undergoing foot surgery in July, and expected to miss at least the start of the season, Dillon Brooks' junior year will be a trying one as he attempts to jump back into the mix for the Ducks mid-season. Coming off an impressive sophomore year that saw him guide Oregon to the Elite Eight and earn a spot on the Pac-12 All-Conference first team, averaging 16.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game, Brooks figured to be one of the most productive, versatile players on the west coast. After flirting with the NBA Draft last spring, it will be interesting to see what kind of strides the talented Canadian can make over an abridged 2016-2017 campaign.
Standing 6'7 with a poor wingspan, but a strong frame, Brooks has some limitations physically that are preventing him from being considered a more highly touted NBA prospect, especially considering how good of a basketball player he is. He's a good, but not great athlete compared to the freakish physical specimens that tends to roam the wings in the NBA, and lacks great size for the power forward spot, which is the position he plays most frequently for the Ducks.
Besides his lackluster physical tools, there is a lot to like about what Brooks brings to the table, particularly on the offensive end, where his aggressiveness and versatility really shined in Dana Altman's system. A capable set shooter who can also push the ball in transition, find the open man, and create a bit one-on-one from the post and perimeter, Brooks can impact the game in a variety of ways offensively. Leading the Ducks in points and assists last year, it will be interesting to see how the team fares in his absence as the confident forward carried the shot-creating load for key stretches last season.
Considering his athletic limitations, Brooks' jump-shot will likely play a key role in any success he's able to find at the NBA level. Shooting the ball with fairly reliable mechanics that he opts to short-arm at times, Brooks doesn't have the smoothest release as he guides the ball a bit. However, he's never short on confidence, making timely shots both off the catch and off the dribble last season. A 34% shooter from beyond the arc, he has room to improve his consistency, but his 43% shooting on unguarded catch and shoot jump shots and 41% shooting on pull-ups in the half court a year ago leave room for optimism. The challenge for Brooks has been his bold shot selection and the streaky results they've produced in NCAA and FIBA play. Forcing up some questionable, off-balance shots, particularly from the mid-range, his aggressiveness sometimes plays against him.
When Brooks' shot is falling, he can be a dangerous scorer at the college level, and though he can be a bit quiet in the scoring column when it is not, he flashes the ability to score in other ways too. Very comfortable putting the ball on the floor and attacking off the bounce, Brooks uses his excellent timing to his advantage against slower fours getting to the rim with convincing shot fakes, crafty changes of speed and direction, and a real knack for attacking closeouts.
Possessing impressive instincts as a slasher, Brooks isn't a very explosive leaper, but can play above the rim when he has space to gather, and shot a strong 60% around the rim in the half court last season according to Synergy Sports Technology thanks to his combination of strength and creativity. That same assertiveness and touch translates nicely to isolation situations in the post and away from the rim at times. He's also adept and drawing contact and can score in bunches shooting strong percentage from the line.
Brooks is a bit of a mixed bag as a passer. His ability to create for others from the forward spot is certainly of value to the Ducks who really spaced the floor well last year, but much like his approach to scoring the ball, he can try to do a bit too much at times. Posting an even assist-to-turnover ratio in the half court last season, he tends to be wild, expose the ball when he penetrates, and drive into brick walls at times. Despite those shortcomings, he can be one of the most productive offensive players in the country when he's rolling thanks to his scoring instincts and knack for getting others involved.
Though the 20-year-old forward has some things to smooth out on the offensive end, he has far more maturing to do defensively. His lateral quickness has improved a bit, but still isn't great. It doesn't help matters that he doesn't play with the greatest sense of urgency and gets lost off the ball at times. Playing in a zone-heavy system, Brooks' deficiencies are masked at times. Even so, it is difficult to see him being much more than an average defender at the next level considering his poor physical tools, particularly his short wingspan, but he could help his cause in the eyes of scouts if he maximized his frame and took a little more pride on that end of the floor.
One of the most versatile players in college basketball, Dillon Brooks is a fiery competitor who ticks a number of boxes as a role-player for the next level. If he can become a little more efficient offensively and use his competitiveness and basketball IQ more effectively on the defensive end, he certainly could hear his name called on draft night in 2017 or 2018.