Dillon Brooks absolutely torched Team USA in the FIBA World Cup bronze medal game on Sunday. The polarizing wing hit seven of eight 3-pointers en route to 39 points as Canada upset the Americans, 127-118, in overtime. It's only the second time that a player has made seven three-pointers in a medal game over the last 30 years. Kevin Durant made seven 3s in the 2010 World Cup final in Turkey.
This is a monumental moment for Canada, which wins its first major international basketball medal in 87 years. And Brooks' performance was far from an outlier. He was sensational all tournament long, averaging 15 points on a sizzling 76.1 true-shooting percentage while taking home the tournament's Best Defensive Player award.
"He's been getting wish-washed this whole summer, but he's an unbelievable player," Kelly Olynyk said of Brooks' performance. "He plays his ass off every single day. He's someone you want fighting beside you in the locker room. I was really happy to see him play the way he did. He's just gotten better and better every game for us."
Neither Canada's victory nor Brooks' showing should come as a shock. Canada had the best player on the court, by a wide margin, in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Brooks, should you need a reminder, is a good, at times very good, NBA basketball player.
That's why the Houston Rockets just gave him a four-year, $86 million contract. That sounds like a steep number, and it is, particularly for a guy who has been a wildly inefficient scorer throughout his career and runs the perpetual risk of writing loudmouth checks neither he nor his team can cash.
Such was the case against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, who made Brooks look like such a clown in last season's playoff elimination that there was virtually no chance the Memphis Grizzlies would bring him and all his excess baggage back.
With seemingly no other bidders at the table, at least not anywhere near that price, the Rockets paying all that money to Brooks turned a lot of heads. But new head coach Ime Udoka is looking to build a tough, defensive-minded team, and Brooks, love him or hate him, is going to be at the center of that cultural charge.
The guy is an All-NBA level defender. Do not let his antics fool you into forgetting that. But to be worth $86 million, some $30 million more than Herb Jones, for instance, there has to be some serious two-way value. This is where Brooks' performance not just on Sunday, but throughout the World Cup, becomes a talking point.
No, he's not going to shoot 58% from 3, or 60% overall, as he did in the Phillippines, over an NBA season. But he can shoot. The problem with Brooks has always been his shot selection. The Americans decided to leave him alone because they couldn't defend SGA straight up, and he caught fire. It's a misnomer that highly efficient, low-volume 3-point shooters scare defenses more than jackers who can hit you for five made 3s in a game at the wrong time.
Brooks is that kind of wild card. Yeah, he can sink his own team. But he can sink you, too, as Team USA found out on Sunday. It will be interesting how Brooks performs with the Rockets, who lack the kind of scorer that can command consistent double teams. Trying to force too much of his own offense is how Brooks has gotten himself into trouble over the years.
As long as he's taking open shots, and attacking secondarily, he's fine. Even halfway threatening. Who knows if he'll ever curb his overzealous impulses, but even if he doesn't, let's not forget that the Celtics dealt with a similarly irrationally confident gunner in Marcus Smart for years, and that worked out pretty good.
Ironically, Smart has been brought into Memphis to replace Brooks as the gritty defender. They are similar players; Smart is probably still the better player, a better passer at the very least, but the gap in perception between these two is deceiving.
While plenty of fans detest Smart, everyone, including his piers, respects him. Brooks sets himself up to be dismissed as a joke. Draymond Green called him an "idiot." He's the new Lance Stephenson blowing in the ear of LeBron James. It doesn't help when he starts putting himself in the same sentence as Kobe Bryant.
One might argue this is Brooks' problem, that he thinks he's something he isn't. However you want to define this whole mamba mentality thing, there's certainly a difference between a legendary player and Dillon Brooks entering into it. Michael Jordan was a jerk to his teammates, but he's Michael Jordan. It's regarded as a good thing when you're that good. He's pulling the best of out you. Tough love. Someone else does it and they're just a jerk.
Still, there's no doubt that Brooks' edge is what makes him the player he is; much like Draymond Green, only, again, not as good. You can't take it away and expect him to be the same player. You might argue nobody wants that player, but I think Team Canada, and for a long time the Grizzlies, would beg to differ. And obviously the Rockets want him.
Sunday was a reminder why. Brooks can be a loose cannon, but a cannon nonetheless. Those things can do a lot of damage when they're pointed in the right direction. On Sunday, he took dead aim at Team USA and blew up any plan the Americans had for going home with a medal.