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A Few Quick Looks at Armoni Brooks

Armoni Brooks likely won't break into the Toronto Raptors rotation, but he's shown in Houston that he's capable of being the fourth guard the Raptors desperately need.

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Photo via NBA.com

Only here, in the depths of fan blogs, will you get to read about a 10-day contract player who has played all of 42 minutes for their team.

That’s what one gets in the dog days of March leading up to the Playoff Push: analysis of any and everything.

Of course, all of the following may be rendered moot once Malachi Flynn returns from his extremely untimely hamstring pull. Brooks, who just signed his second 10-day contract, may be off this team or buried deep on the bench beyond the realm of Svi and Yuta, if he doesn’t bedazzle soon.

Until then, I’ll happily indulge, since I’ve had my eye on Brooks for a little bit of time now. In a pre-trade-deadline article, I threw his name around as a last-resort option:

(Masai and I have similar eyes for talent.)

Prior to coming to Toronto, the 2nd year, 6’3″, 195 lbs combo guard had hung to Houston’s fringes as a depth guard. He made the best of his limited playing time with highs of 21, 18, 18, and 17 points and multiple 4+ assists games.

His per-36-minute numbers this year (13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists on 50% true shooting [Malachi Flynn this year is 13, 4, 5 on 50% true shooting for reference]) have also been promising. For a team like Toronto, who thirsts for bench points and any iota of creation like a neglected houseplant, Brooks’ production numbers were enough to elicit his signing.

There are a lot of limitations for someone of Brooks’ size who is not astronomically athletic or an all-time talent. He compensates for his lack of size with an awareness and intuition that reminds me – in form and substance – of former Raptor, Lou Williams. Similar to Lou, Brooks is a [usually] deadly shooter (40% from 3 in the catch and shoot and 33% on pull-up 3s last year) and has moments as a savvy instigator on the drive.

Last year, in 20 games, Brooks was in the 83 percentile for effective field-goal percentage amongst combo guards (28th percentile in at-rim field goal percentage, 31st percentile in the mid-range, and 62nd from 3). He also seldom turned the ball over and was in the 70th percentile for points scored per shot attempt amongst guards.

The majority of his points do come from three (64 of his 87 made field goals this year were 3-pointers), but he’s not solely a shooter. Brooks can also create for himself and others off the bounce, which is something Toronto deeply desires with such a limited/hobbled backcourt.

You can see in the following clips Brooks’ ability to hunt for his own shot, with or without his dribble, finish in a crowd, or find the open player.

 

In Toronto, we’re not seeing much of any of this. He’s not taken a 2 and has been cold as winter in Yakutsk from 3 (1/9). Brooks has not been as aggressive, generally, opting to bide his time or make the extra pass. I respect that and get it. You’re the new guy, you want to ingratiate yourself. At the same time, to truly help this team, and remain a Raptor, you have to do what you do best, within moderation. Wait too long and you’re out. Try too hard and you’re out. Tricky spot.

 

Brooks is the better shooter. He’s open he should shoot; or, maybe normally, he’d pump and go. Instead, he swings it to a lesser shooter who is less wide open. It worked out.

Shooters gotta keep shooting. He’s had open looks; they’ll fall eventually. One can assume he’s simply in a slump or nervous. Last year, he hit 38% of his 8 threes per game.

In the meantime, unlike previous Raptor shooting specialists, such as Jodie Meeks and Matt Thomas, Brooks has held his own on defence.

Nick Nurse surprised us all by starting Brooks against Denver. He played 21 minutes.

and 0 turnovers.

Despite that meagre statline, he was able to remain on the floor by playing sufficient defence.

Brook’s lack of explosiveness will never make him an elite defender. He’s sleight and short; again, his basketball acumen and effort supplements some of what he misses athletically.

 

 

The Raptors defensive scheme is not an easy one to adjust to. Knowing who’s responsibility it is to rotate or when to blitz or when to stay home in such an aggressive defence is difficult. Brooks seems to have adjusted swiftly.

One play, in particular, stood out to me the other night in the Raptors/Clippers game. Brooks had multiple possessions working hard fighting over screens and confounding Luke Kennard’s attempts to get open (0/2 in 22 minutes). Below, he does just that, fighting over a screen for Kennard, but then, as the play devolves, Brooks foresees a kickout to Nicolas Batum in the corner and races crosscourt to challenge the shot.

Brooks has a future in the NBA. Once his 3-point shot starts to fall, you’ll see his offensive diversity on full display. But if he doesn’t start hitting soon, Brooks’ immediate future in Toronto may come to a close before that can happen.

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