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Player Review: Aaron Brooks was too small

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Using the 32-year-old off-ball was needed until it wasn’t.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Brooks was signed by the Indiana Pacers with the intention of him providing additional speed-oriented depth and infusing the league’s worst bench in terms of three-point shooting (29.1%) with floor spacing. Yet, by the end of the season, the reason they needed him most ended up indirectly being the reason they couldn’t use him.

How did Aaron Brooks impress?

When Aaron Brooks supplanted Rodney Stuckey as the backup point guard late in the season, Nate McMillan’s reluctance to have him trade roles with Monta Ellis was perplexing. Brooks shot 36.8 percent on catch and shoot three-pointers. Ellis, the better playmaker of the two, barely shot above 30 percent.

Granted, Brooks (18 points) earned the attention of the Grizzlies in this particular contest, but check out how unfazed Mike Conley is, here, by the non-shooting shooting guard standing in the corner.

Another problem with this juxtaposition is that Brooks had a tendency to dance with the ball and shot hunt when he had full control of the team’s point guard duties. Lance Stephenson’s arrival restored what should’ve been the bench’s natural order because greater emphasis was placed on surrounding the prodigal point wing with shooters.

With Stephenson setting the table for Brooks off-ball along with Paul George, C.J. Miles, and Kevin Seraphin, the Pacers outscored opponents by 25.5 points per 100 possessions over the last five games of the regular season.

Then, the playoffs happened...

How did Aaron Brooks disappoint?

There was a reason Brooks never saw the floor in Game 2, Game 3, or Game 4 against the Cleveland Cavaliers: His defense —- made worse by his diminutive stature — was too much of a liability in Game 1.

Switching everything, as bamboozling as it already was for the Pacers, proved even more challenging with the 32-year-old’s 6-foot frame in the mix. He got bullied by Kevin Love on the block, and Channing Frye got free for a wide open layup off a cut when he and C.J. Miles had this miscommunication.

In the seven total minutes he played in the playoffs, the Pacers got outscored by 24.3 points per 100 possessions.

What’s next?

While making the media rounds last week, Kevin Pritchard made three things plain: His desire to pursue size for position, his belief in Joe Young, and how much Lance Stephenson would factor into the team’s future plans. Reading between the lines, none of this bodes well for Aaron Brooks.

The Pacers are well-aware that they can’t switch everything with a small backcourt. They already have Lance to man the backup point guard duties, and they can exercise Young’s option if they want a small, off-ball threat. Prior to and during the regular season, they needed Brooks to spread the floor. By season’s end, his size dictated that they would have to take him off of it.

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