What will MarShon Brooks be for Boston?
In most gyms across the country, you'll find a kid who can flat-out score. They may not be the most athletic or intelligent, but they simply have a knack for getting a ball in the basket. Brooks was that kid in college, only his athleticism and size measured out to an NBA player instead of a local men's league star.
As a senior at Providence College, Brooks posted 24.6 points per game. The Friars finished 15-17 overall.
As a rookie with the New Jersey Nets, Brooks put up 12.6 points per game and made the All-Rookie Second Team. The Nets finished 22-44.
Then, suddenly he was on a winning team with the Brooklyn Nets, going 49-33. Unfortunately, Brooks was relegated deep on the bench, posting just 5.4 points in 12.5 minutes a night. This only fueled his reputation of being a great scorer on bad teams.
In Brooks' defense, all four of his coaches since starting college have been fired. The only one still working for a basketball team is Keno Davis, now the head coach of Central Michigan University.
In Brad Stevens, he meets another brand new head coach. Much of Brooks' future in the league lies with Stevens. He could be used as a valuable piece or get buried on the bench again.
The range between best- and worst-case scenarios for Brooks may not be drastic, but it might just be the difference between NBA life and death.
To find MarShon Brooks' ideal comparison for the Boston Celtics, you have to take a little leap in age. Nine years, to be exact, which is where Jamal Crawford sits currently.
The 33-year-old shooting guard posted 16.5 points per game coming off the Los Angeles Clippers bench last season. He connected on 37.6 percent of his threes and 43.8 percent overall. Celtics fans may remember, as Crawford tallied 40 points against Boston over two games last year.
Back when he was in the process of being drafted in 2011, Brooks made the comparison to Crawford himself.
Right down to the measurements of 6'5" and 200 pounds, Crawford lines up with Brooks. Both players were mostly known as scorers coming out of college. Crawford went No. 8 overall because he was a bit more rounded as a distributor.
Crawford took home 2010's Sixth Man of the Year award, manning that position for the Atlanta Hawks. He has been in that role, and succeeding in it, ever since. At this point in Crawford's career, he is more of an off-ball shooter. Nearly 40 percent of his attempts since 2010 have come from beyond the arc. However, in his prime, Crawford had just as much slashing ability as the next guy.
Right now, Brooks needs to take a few things from Crawford's game. He needs to become an unconscious scorer, and he needs to utilize diverse offensive talents with a successful three-point shot. Crawford averaged just as many shots as Blake Griffin, and Brooks can't be afraid to put it up either.
If Brooks becomes a similarly fearless offensive force, even to a slightly lesser extent, Boston's second unit will be something to see.
One major card that the Boston Celtics hold in this whole ordeal is that they don't have to pay MarShon Brooks after next season. They hold relatively inexpensive options for two years after that but can simply cut him at no cost if they wish.
This will be a major benefit if Brooks turns into a worst-case scenario and bottoms out in 2013-14.
Jordan Crawford was drafted in a similar position as Brooks, going at No. 27 in 2010. He was a prolific scorer at Xavier before being drafted. Still, Crawford entered the NBA with similar question marks about his game.
For Brooks, becoming the "other" Crawford could be a worst-case scenario. This is not only because the Celtics already have the former Xavier star, but because he might not be around long in this league. A shooting guard who can barely scratch 40 percent won't be an NBA player for many years. He is on his third team since 2010, is already riding thin on his second chance with Boston.
Crawford hasn't developed a reliable enough outside jumper and still struggles with shot selection and playing within an offense. Brooks needs to develop those skills in particular to be successful with longevity.
Boston is a little too deep at shooting guard right now, so they definitely can't handle having two Jordan Crawfords on the roster.
One high-end comparison for the potential of MarShon Brooks is Kevin Martin.
After a prolific scoring career with a weak college program in Western Carolina, Martin was grabbed with the No. 26 pick in the 2004 NBA draft. He played sporadically for the Sacramento Kings over his first two seasons, earning more and more playing time thanks to injuries and improvement.
That sounds eerily like Brooks, who scored a ton with a weak Providence team in college and went No. 25 overall in 2011.
Suddenly, in Year 3, Martin emerged as one of the league's top scorers. All those skills he developed in college as the focal point took some time to acclimate against NBA defenses. Martin was able to string together five straight seasons averaging more than 20 points per game.
Martin developed a great three-point shot over time, as it wasn't his main skill coming out of college. Instead, Martin proved an ability to score in a multitude of ways. He could slash or pull up while playing on the ball or off. Those are things that take time to learn at this level.
Brooks entered the league with the same problem Martin had. He dominated the ball in college and for periods as a rookie. Now he has to learn how to use screens and get himself open.
That's how Martin became an elite scorer, and if Brooks can follow that path, Boston got the better of its recent blockbuster trade.
Though the position and size may not line up with MarShon Brooks, a very real concern is him becoming the next Jonny Flynn.
Both players starred in college at Big East schools, earning picks in the first round: Flynn in 2009, Brooks in 2011. Like Brooks, Flynn had a very good rookie season, earning a spot on the same All-Rookie Second Team that Brooks would land on later. The Syracuse-product averaged 13.5 points and 4.4 assists per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Then, after seeing 28.9 minutes over 81 starts, Flynn's playing time was slashed during his sophomore campaign. Minnesota dealt him after two seasons, which started a rough time in the player's life. Neither the Houston Rockets, nor the Portland Trail Blazers played him much. Flynn is now busting his hump in the summer leagues looking for a roster spot somewhere.
Brooks' drop in playing time and production from Year 1 to Year 2 is of major concern. He had the opportunity to win over two different Brooklyn Nets coaches, yet neither wanted to play him. Flynn's drop-off mirrors that of Brooks.
A 46 percent shooter in college, Flynn could no longer hit a thing. After shooting 41.7 percent as a rookie, he never again topped 38 percent. Any confidence he had gained that rookie season is now completely gone.
While Brooks' shooting percentage actually increased in Year 2, he saw about a third of the opportunities granted to him as a rookie. His three-point shot did indeed go down the tubes, falling to 27.3 percent on 55 attempts.
The Boston Celtics have to hope Brooks' confidence isn't shot yet and he can bounce back. Flynn couldn't and didn't. That's why he enjoyed most of last season playing in Melbourne, Australia.
The Boston Celtics know a fair amount about giving up on a player too early.
In the middle of each of their rookie seasons in Boston, the franchise shipped off future perennial All-Stars Joe Johnson and Chauncey Billups. To a lesser extent, the Celtics let Tony Allen walk over a minor raise in pay, allowing him to earn two All-Defensive First Team nods with the Memphis Grizzlies.
They will try to prove that the Brooklyn Nets gave up too early on MarShon Brooks.
While the potential probably isn't there for him to become a Johnson or Billups, both of whom were drafted far earlier than Brooks, Boston has a role open for the taking. The team needs a guard off the bench who can score and defend the perimeter. Where Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford have failed, Brooks may emerge.
If he proves himself with Boston this year, Brooks could set himself up for a nice, long career in the NBA. Maybe nothing to the degree of Jamal Crawford or Kevin Martin, but Carlos Delfino, Kirk Hinrich and Leandro Barbosa have been in the league for a long time. There is plenty of room in the NBA for consistent role players and bench scorers, but you rarely get a third chance.
This is also a second chance for Boston, who swapped Brooks for JaJuan Johnson on draft night. Danny Ainge was kicking himself for that trade but now has the chance to see what might have been.
The Celtics will give Brooks his second look next season. If he doesn't take advantage, Europe awaits.