When the Chicago Bulls signed journeyman point guard Aaron Brooks over the summer, basketball fans collectively nodded their heads and thought to themselves, “Well, it makes sense,” mostly because Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau has earned a reputation around the league for rejuvenating the careers of undersized scoring point guards exactly like Brooks.
John Lucas III, Nate Robinson and D.J. Augustin all have turned good seasons under Thibs with Chicago into more lucrative deals the following year. Now, apparently, it’s Brooks’ turn as he enters camp determined to carve out a similar role for himself this season.
“This is a great team, and I feel like I can contribute to it,” Brooks said. “I think I just got to a point in my career where you want to be winning games and have fun playing basketball and play in the postseason.
“I’m chasing a ring,” he admitted openly, explaining why a player so talented would play for under a million bucks.
And that’s the difference between this season and the past couple of seasons: Robinson and Augustin thrived in Derrick Rose’s absence, in seasons where there were little if any postseason expectations for the Bulls. This season, Brooks will have to figure out how to be productive in different ways than his predecessors on a team expected to compete for a title, but he doesn’t think that will be a problem.
“I just see myself a little differently,” Brooks said. “I’m more of a passer. I’m better at taking what the defense gives me.”
He doesn’t have great career assist numbers, but he’s just as tricky offensively as the Chicago point guards that have come before him. In Brooks’ best year as a starter for the Houston Rockets back in 2009-10, Brooks averaged 19.6 PPG and 5.6 APG. Augustin did, in his prime, average slightly more assists per game but never came close in terms of scoring. Robinson, meanwhile, never approached either of those numbers.
In other words, Brooks may be the best backup point guard Chicago has had since Thibodeau took over, and in his offensive system, Brooks sees a tremendous opportunity.
“It’s a lot of pick and roll,” he said about Chicago’s offense. “When you’ve got big-body guys setting pick and rolls, guys can get into the lane and create stuff. It’s very guard friendly. I think my game is a little bit different from [Augustin and Robinson], but I still think I fit into the system.”
It shouldn’t take long to see how, exactly, he fits, but like Kirk Hinrich, Brooks can play both guard positions despite being only 6’0. He’s a crafty scorer who can find space when there is no space, and that’s something the Bulls don’t have much of outside of Rose.
Should—heaven forbid—Rose get hurt again, Brooks could easily see as much success as Augustin, Robinson and even Lucas, but the difference with Brooks is that he’ll probably have a pretty big role even with Rose healthy. The only real shooting guard in the lineup this year is Jimmy Butler, so both Hinrich and Brooks should play some there. In the dog days of the season, when Thibodeau is hopefully resting Rose a little more, Brooks could see 20+ minutes a game at the point guard spot.
Best of all, at the veteran’s minimum he’s one of the best bargains on the Bulls’ roster. Brooks has hopped around a lot, playing for five teams in seven seasons, and his contract with Chicago is only for the one year. If he ends up being as integral as both he and the Bulls’ higher ups think he’ll be, though, his next contract may provide him a little more permanence somewhere.
Unfortunately, the Bulls are seldom able to afford to keep these bargain players following big seasons. It’s one-and-done, mostly because Thibodeau finds ways to rejuvenate players exactly like Brooks. For the sake of the player and the team, let’s hope that’s the way it works this season, as well.
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