Next Contract Series: Dillon Brooks

Next Contract Series: Dillon Brooks

The Memphis Grizzlies have become the NBA’s preeminent “draft and develop” team. Of their current roster, only Steven Adams, Tyus Jones and Luke Kennard didn’t begin their NBA careers as Grizzlies. Memphis believes in keeping their draft picks, selecting players with upside and high work ethic, and then coaching them up to get the most of their abilities.

Another thing the Grizzlies believe in? Locking up those players to long-term contracts.

In recent years, Memphis has reached extension agreements with Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke, and Steven Adams. That group of four, and presumably Desmond Bane (who will be extension-eligible to this summer), will be Grizzlies through at least 2024-25.

But there’s another player who Memphis has already extended once that could be up for another new deal before he hits free agency this summer. Let’s talk about the interesting case of Dillon Brooks.

The Veteran Extension

Brooks is in the final year of the three-year, $35 million extension he signed with Memphis in 2020. Brooks is now eligible to extend again through June 30. Here’s what that extension could look like:

    • 2023-24: $13,680,000
    • 2024-25: $14,774,400
    • 2025-26: $15,868,800
    • 2026-27: $16,963,200
    • Total: four years, $61,286,400

That’s the max Brooks can get in a veteran extension. It’s a 120% bump off his current salary of $11,400,000 with 8% raises in the following years.

That’s an average of about $15.3 million per season for Brooks. That $13.7 million for next season would see Brooks ranked as the 19th highest paid small forward in the NBA, just behind Doug McDermott and ahead of Nicolas Batum. If you extrapolate that out to all wings, Brooks would be the 45th highest paid wing next season at $13.7 million.

Re-signing with the Grizzlies as a free agent

Maybe Brooks looks at the landscape this summer and sees that there are somewhere between seven and 10 team projected to have considerable cap space. Then he looks at the free agent small forwards and sees that he ranks somewhere between the third- and fifth-best free agent small forward. That could push Brooks to wait to sign a new deal until free agency.

The max Brooks could get from the Grizzlies projects to look like the follow:

    • 2023-24: $33,500,000
    • 2024-25: $36,180,000
    • 2025-26: $38,860,000
    • 2026-27: $41,540,000
    • 2027-28: $44,220,000
    • Total: five years, $194,300,000

That’s the 25% of the cap maximum Brooks is eligible for as a player with six years of service. It also includes 8% raises off the projected first-year salary of $33.5 million.

Yes, that’s more than Brooks is going to get. He’s a good player, but a first-year salary of $33.5 million would make him the sixth highest paid small forward, behind Brandon Ingram and ahead of Michael Porter Jr. Of all wing players, he would rank 13th, again nestled between Ingram and Porter. Given his shooting struggles the last two seasons, that’s a bit rich for the Grizzlies.

Signing with another team as a free agent:

It probably wouldn’t make sense for Brooks to leave Memphis, as he’s comfortable there, plays a big role and the team is good. But if Brooks got wandering eyes, here’s the max another team could give him this summer:

    • 2023-24: $33,500,000
    • 2024-25: $35,175,000
    • 2025-26: $36,850,000
    • 2026-27: $38,525,000
    • Total: four years, $144,050,000

That’s the same 30% max in first-year salary, but it’s capped at 5% raises and only four years, as Brooks would be changing teams.

This would be over double what Brooks could get by locking in for an extension with Memphis. But this is still more than Brooks is gong to get as a free agent. As much as teams value 3&D wings (or maybe it should be “3”&D in Brooks’ case), that’s not where Brooks will fall salary-wise as a free agent.

Summary

Dillon Brooks is a good player, despite the shooting challenges of the past two seasons. However, Brooks recently turned 27, so there’s probably not much, if any, improvement still to come in his game. Maybe the shooting turns back around, but everything else what it is at this point. If the shooting doesn’t bounce back, that’s a major limiting factor for Brooks.

The reality is that Brooks’ value is probably higher to the Grizzlies than it would be to another team. Could a cap space team like Orlando, Detroit or Houston add him as a mid-career veteran that would give them an infusion of wing defense? Sure. But those teams have another needs they’ll probably focus on first. In other words: Brooks probably won’t be a priority free agent for any team out of the gates this summer.

There’s also the fact that Brooks is, let’s say, an interesting personality. He’s a top-tier irritant for opponents, and that’s putting it kindly. Brooks is also a high-end irrational confidence guy. It’s not uncommon to see Brooks on the floor with several All-Stars and feel like his thought process is “I got this!”.

The Grizzlies have figured out how to make that work to their advantage. They like that he gets under the skin of opposing wing scorers. And while he might get a little wild on offense, Memphis needs that, especially when Ja Morant and Desmond Bane are out of the game. It’s an important layer of unpredictability in an offense that relies on Morant’s skywalking excellence a bit more than is comfortable at times.

Locking in on a veteran extension that would see Brooks make just north of $15 million as an average salary seems like a fair deal for both him and the Grizzlies. The potential to make slightly more could be there this summer, but that would involve leveraging an outside offer against Memphis.

If the veteran extension isn’t quite enough, a compromise for Memphis and Brooks this summer could be something that looks like this:

    • 2023-24: $18,000,000
    • 2024-25: $16,560,000
    • 2025-26: $15,120,000
    • 2026-27: $13,680,000
    • Total: four years, $63,360,000

That’s a bit more total money as the Veteran Extension option for Brooks, and it gives him more money up front. Then, as he approaches his early 30s, the salary drops into what will likely be the Non-Taxpayer MLE range.

In this type of setup, Brooks wins immediately with a salary that would rank in the top-20 of small forwards and top-35 of all wings. The Grizzlies will be an over-the-cap team this offseason, but have a ton of space under the luxury tax for 2023-24. This is a good way to use some of that flexibility by giving Brooks an up-front bump for more team-friendly salaries in the later years.

No matter what, expect Memphis and Brooks to reach an agreement on a new deal. The Grizzlies aren’t in the habit of letting their players walk and Brooks should know his value is highest in Memphis. That’s a combination that rarely sees non-max players leave town.