We argue. You decide.
AARON BROOKS (by Jack Jensen)
How many people do you think were ready to throw in the towel after the Rockets traded away Rafer Alston last February in favor of their second-year point guard out of Oregon? I’m guessing more people than care to admit it jumped off the bandwagon and thought Aaron Brooks wasn’t ready to lead Houston anywhere. He’s too small, too inexperienced and not ready for what’s expected of a starter.
After his national breakout party in the 2009 playoffs, and in leading the Rockets to a surprising 16 wins already this season, it’s safe to say that Houston made the right decision. Despite what my man Aron Phillips says about Luis Scola, his teammate, Brooks, is everything that I love about the NBA. He has built himself up from college disappointment as a junior, to become one of the most exciting guards to watch in the League today.
I have been in AB’s corner from his gloomy days in Eugene to dancing in the Elite Eight his senior year to giving Kobe and the Lakers all they could handle through seven games in last year’s second round. In all my time watching Brooks, the attribute that I like most about him is his relentlessness to never surrender. No matter if it’s against a better defender, a broken play or in garbage time, the man will try and bust your teeth in on every possession. There isn’t a quicker guard in the Association than Brooks, and his game feeds off of his speed and agility. In comparing him with another member of the Pacific Northwest family, Rodney Stuckey, it’s all too easy to get stat-envy.
Stuckey averages more points, steals and minutes than Brooks, but surrenders in the only stat that matters: wins. As the starting PG, Brooks has shown he can get it done in both the playoffs and the regular season. Brooks led the Rockets with 16.8 points, 3.4 dimes and seven wins in the ’09 postseason. As the starter for his team, Stuckey’s Pistons went four-and-out against Cleveland. As of Monday, the Rockets are 16-11, while Detroit is 11-16.
In this battle of Seattle, Brooks has solidified himself as the more valuable player. Without Brooks, the Rockets would not have convincingly beaten Portland in the first round last year, much less even sniffed out seven games with L.A. This season, Houston would be reduced to a stockpile of role players putting up Charlotte Bobcats-like results. Brooks sets the tempo and his orchestration of the offense is key to the Rockets’ success. Both Detroit and Houston are dealing with injuries, but each still has sufficient talent surrounding their point guards.
Drafted 11 spots ahead of Brooks in ’07, Stuckey has also found his comfort level in the League this year, but doesn’t have full command over his team. The Pistons are still Rip‘s team, they’re still Billups’ old team. I know Stuck’s the gleaming future of the Motor City, but it still just doesn’t quite feel like Rodney’s team yet. Brooks has taken a squad — seemingly destined to be fishing for Lotto pong come June — that lost Ron Artest and Yao last summer, and has the organization thinking playoffs again. He is also leading Houston in scoring and assists (17.5, 5.5). No question these two guys have a long future ahead of them, but right now, I’m sticking with Brooks.
RODNEY STUCKEY (by Austin Burton)
Joe Dumars earned two NBA rings playing next to an ice-cold omniscient veteran point guard in Isiah Thomas. As a front-office dealmaker, he picked up a third ring after signing an ice-cold omniscient vet PG in Chauncey Billups. So what makes Dumars up and trade Billups to clear space for some small-school young’un named Rodney Stuckey?
Go to YouTube and enter “Joe Dumars mix” and you’ll begin to understand. Natural as it is to compare Stuckey to the great Pistons point guards preceding him, a closer look reveals the third-year pro is more likely the second coming of Joe D on the floor.
Stuckey isn’t just a point guard. (Advantage #1 over Aaron Brooks: Versatility.) Injuries to Rip Hamilton and Ben Gordon this season have resulted in Stuckey playing a lot of two-guard while still initiating Detroit’s offense – the same role Dwyane Wade plays in Miami and Brandon Roy plays in Portland. (Advantage #2: Carrying greater responsibilities with equal or greater individual success.) Like Dumars, a reluctant and struggling three-point shooter his first six years in the League, Stuckey has room to develop the weakest facet of his game. In the meantime, like Dumars, Stuckey has the playmaking and scoring ability of a true dual threat in the backcourt.
At 6-5, 205, Stuckey can strong-arm his defender or dart past him, his superb body control allowing him to absorb contact and make tough shots. (Advantage #3: More impressive physical specimen.) While Brooks represents the bad end of a mismatch with bigger point guards, Stuckey matches up evenly with any guard in the League. None are too tall for him, none too quick, none too strong. Where he might fall short is simply experience, and in that regard, Stuckey and Brooks are about even.
Or, consider all Stuck’s been through in his nascent career: Key contributor on an Eastern Conference Finals squad as a rookie; unexpectedly thrust into a starting role following the Billups trade; enduring the drama involving Allen Iverson’s PT and Detroit’s internal issues; and now on his third head coach in three years. And all Stuckey has done is reach the cusp of franchise-player status for one of the NBA’s signature franchises, displaying a vet’s poise all along. (Advantage #4: Experience.)
Stuckey averages 19.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.9 turnovers, and is hitting 85 percent at the line – topping Brooks in five of those six categories. (Advantage #5: Numbers.) Stuckey has been held below double figures in scoring only once, compared to five times for Brooks. (Advantage #6: Consistency.)
True, Brooks has guided Houston to a better record with just as many injuries to deal with. But consider the degree of difficulty: While Brooks has Rick Adelman on his side, Stuckey has a rookie head coach in John Kuester. And while the slight-of-frame Brooks is limited to defending and being defended by opposing point guards, Stuckey routinely lines up across from the best perimeter defenders and scorers. Against the Lakers on Sunday, Stuckey split time between Kobe and Artest. When L.A. plays Houston, Brooks draws Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar. (Advantage #7: Tougher competition.)
Aaron Brooks is my guy. We grew up in the same Little League system and share an alma mater. I went to school with his older brother for years. I root for Aaron every game he plays. But Aaron grew up playing with Rodney Stuckey. He knows his game. And I believe he’d even understand why, in this instance, the advantages fall in Rodney’s favor.
Who do you think is better?
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