Firstly, I'd like to apologize in advance for even suggesting what would be an ostensible "demotion" for our beloved ABZ. This post is meant by no means to be an indictment of him, but rather [hopefully] a suggestion that most efficiently employs his talents and abilities while mitigating the effects of his weaknesses.
I love Aaron Brooks, I really do, and I can't overstate what he did for us last year. We were without direction, and the best center in the NBA, for that matter, and for a small portion of the season, some of us, myself included, were actually hoping for Tracy Mcgrady to ride in on whatever people without knees ride in in on and save the day. Of course, we neglected to realize that this would involve Mcgrady actually coming through for us, something he's been utterly incapable of doing these last two seasons.
But I think that's all besides the point. Suffice it to say, Brooks stepped up last year when we needed him most. He averaged 20 points a game and put on some truly magical showings (his explosion against Minnesota and 13 assists against the Suns when his shot wasn't falling come to mind), but despite his strengths, numerous as they may be, he's not a distributor.
Brooks is a scorer, and I'd have him no other way. He's by no means a poor passer, but he's also not the archetypal "pure point guard" we hear so much about. Which would be fine, since it's not like there's an overabundance of pass-first, unselfish guards floating around in the NBA whose primary focus on offense is getting the ball to their teammates in scoring positions that we could just grab and plug in to our lineup. Except we have someone with precisely those qualities on our very own roster in Kyle Lowry.
Now considering that unlike last season, during which he was the accepted first option for the majority of the year, Brooks is looking at a role as a third or even fourth scorer, with Martin settling in, Yao returning and Scola being, well, an absolute badass whomade awkward looking 15-footers look downright sexy at times, I believe Brooks would be better suited to a role as a dynamic scorer off the bench a la Manu Ginobili, leaving Lowry to fill the position of starting point guard.
The surface stats support the idea that Lowry's the better play-maker, as he averaged around 8.9 assists per 48 minutes with an assist:turnover ratio of 2.65 to Brooks' numbers of 7.2 and 1.9, respectively. Dig a little deeper and the postulate still stands firm. Kyle Lowry's assist ratio, or percentage of plays he used that ended in an assist, stood at 32 last year, while Brooks' was 20, further suggesting that Lowry would be more adept for a role as a distributor than Brooks. In addition, 3.5 of Lowry's assists every night were either at the basket or on three-pointers, the two most efficient shots in basketball, a number only 0.2 less than Brooks' despite a ten minute per game disadvantage. Essentially, Lowry created more shots for his teammates in better positions while losing the ball less, a direct product of his looking to pass on more of his possessions than to score. In addition, Brooks used more than a quarter of the Rockets' possessions when he was on the floor last year (25.7 percent) while Lowry only used 18.6 percent of them.
Now I'm not saying Lowry's a better player than Brooks, although I suppose there's a case to be made for that as well, if only for a different day. I just think that Lowry would be better suited as a starter for next season's team, that unlike last year, when we lacked a presumptive go-to guy and thought we'd struggle to find scoring, will face the depressingly real problem of determining out who's going to be losing usage and, as a result, scoring opportunities. This means that if we can't find a way to adequately distribute our usage for next season, someone's going to have to cut back.
Kevin Martin and Yao both demand the ball and do so rightly, as they're definitely our two best scorers. Scola's proven to be a skilled scorer in the low post as well, so I don't see why we'd want to lessen the role of any member of that trio. Assuming Battier gets relegated to the bench (a saddening thought, but somehow I don't think Trevor would handle a reduced role nearly as gracefully or composedly as him) and Ariza starts, that's four players who, for better or worse (many times the latter last season in Trevor's case) shoot the ball and need someone to get it to them.
Adding a fifth player, a young one, no less, coming off a career season in which he led his team in scoring for most of the year and, by the way, will be working for a new salary, creates a tenuous if not combustible starting group. We have good guys on our team who all seem to buy into the concept of many before one, but that doesn't change the fact that they're NBA players. They all have egos, it's practically mandated to have one if you want to be as good as they are at their craft, and none of them likes to think that they're going to be losing scoring chances to other players.
So a simple solution would be allowing Lowry to start and focus solely on dishing the ball to our scorers while bringing Brooks of the bench would be the most logical and productive move for us next season. Brooks would still play his 30 minutes a game and would get to run wild with the second unit, allowing him to showcase his talents and maintain a usage rate similar to last season's. Brooks' scoring style seems suited for the bench, as he's streaky and predicates his game on attacking the defense when they're least ready, and he'd be able to extract the most from his abilities with the up-tempo, aggressive unit I'm hoping our bench will be. I think he'd excel in a role similar to Jamaal Crawford's with the Hawks last season, and his skill-set definitely supports that idea.
It's a bit of a radical change, I know, and I worry that it'd send the wrong message to Brooks, whose growth has come quicker than any of us could have predicted, but when appraising our roster for next season and considering the possibilities, this seems like the option of the most expediency. I'd love to hear what y'all think about it. Thoughts? Oh, and go Rockets. As always.