MarShon Brooks is among the top rookies in virtually every statistical category. He's second in scoring at 14.5 ppg; second in field goal percentage at 46.2%; third in player efficiency at 12.36; fourth in points/assists/rebounds at 19.5; and sixth in three point shooting (and way ahead of Jimmer Fredette) at 40%.
So how did he last until #25 on Draft Night when Billy King, wanting to make sure the Nets got who they wanted, pre-arranged a deal that sent JaJuan Johnson and the Nets' 2014 second round pick to the Celtics for the rights to Brooks? We weren't in the war rooms on Draft Night, so we're not privy to the details of why he fell, but we offer our take, which is somewhat informed.
It seems every year, someone good falls in the draft, but Marshon Brooks situation may be special. It's difficult to recall someone who was taken so low (five spots from the bottom of the first round) has done so well, even if it is early in the season.
The last few drafts prove that point. No one solid really dropped that far in 2010. In 2009, Taj Gibson, DaJuan Blair, Jonas Jerebko, Chase Budinger and now B.J. Mullens could be considered steals (particularly considering who was taken above #20). In 2008, several players made impacts even if taken after #20 (Courtney Lee, Nicolas Batum, George Hill, Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, DeAndre Jordan and Luc Mbah a Moute)
There aren't a lot of recent precedents for a player taken as late as #25 becoming one of the top scorers of the rookie class...and yes, we know it's early, very early, to make firm judgments.
So why did Brooks fall? There are a number or reasons, according to league sources and draftniks.
1) He was one of the older players in the draft. Brooks turns 23 on January 26 and teams normally don't want to risk a high pick on older players. He was the third oldest player selected in the first round and ninth oldest among the 60 drafted.
2) He wasn't anyone's radar before his senior year, making his stats and improvement suspect. Brooks went from 14.2 ppg his junior year to 24.6 his senior year. That was one red flag.
3) He was tarred by his reputation as a ball hog on a bad team. His scoring average (and his Big East records for most points in a season and in a game) were somewhat dismissed because of the high volume of shots he took. That was another.
4) He really didn't take off as a prospect until the Pre-Draft Combine where he dominated and made scouts take notice, including the Nets. But when a player suddenly takes off, it makes some scouts and GM's nervous. There are a lot of cases where players' sudden rise (in his case more than 20 places in mock drafts) often leads to disappointment on the NBA level. That's another red flag in some Draft war rooms.
5) On Draft Night, he had been slated to go to the Pacers at #15, but the Spurs wanted Kawhi Leonard so badly they offered Indiana hometown boy George Hill and their own pick. The Pacers had done extensive background checks on Brooks and in a workout, he blew Leonard away. As often happens, he dropped after his top team decided to go in another direction.
6) Erroneous reports that he was a "bad kid". That's how Ryen Russillo referred to Brooks on ESPN Radio the day after the draft while interviewing Chad Ford. Russillo was very skeptical of Brooks and said he had "heard" Brooks was a "bad kid" (without explanation) and that he was doing nothing more than "impersonating" Kobe. Ford who loved Brooks nevertheless said he "heard some of the same stuff". But teams that did background checks found nothing. And let's remember this is a kid who entered the second semester of his senior year at Providence a mere two classes short of his degree. As Gary Sussman tweeted back on January 12, "Wishing Marshon best of luck in his first pro start...great ad for a 4 year college education..delight to work with..."
Does it matter? Not now! King got his man and everyone seems to think he did quite well (with a traded pick, remember). How long will he continue to shine? When will he hit the rookie wall? Who knows but when just about everyone taken ahead of him, other than overall #1 Kyrie Irving, is not doing as well, that qualifies as the "steal of the draft."