BOSTON, MA - MARCH 02: Aaron Brooks #0 of the Phoenix Suns calls out the play in the first half against the Boston Celtics on March 2, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
"Excited" is not the right word to describe how I feel about the Sacramento Kings picking up Aaron Brooks on what's been reported as a two-year, $6.6 million deal. I'm happy with it: it's a smart, cheap move to add depth in two areas that the Kings desperately need depth, ball-handling and shooting. Brooks isn't a great ball-handler (he's sufficient) or shooter (he's sufficient). But in those two areas? "Sufficient" is an upgrade. So Brooks is an upgrade. I'm happy with it.
This idea that Brooks could replace Isaiah Thomas as the team's starter, though? Uh, what?
I.T. isn't one of the league's top point guards, and as such, you always consider an upgrade. A team should never really be satisfied with its talent level at each spot unless the team is great. The Kings aren't great, and Thomas isn't an All-Star or anything close. So looking at his future isn't a matter of disrespect: it's a matter of realism. The Kings could become a great team with Isaiah as the starting point, but it'll take massive upgrades or development elsewhere in the starting line-up, in all likelihood. Otherwise, point guard is one of the positions that can be upgraded to get to that level.
But Brooks is not that upgrade.
If nothing else, Brooks is pretty much exactly the same as Thomas: a shooting point guard who make plays off the dribble and has no problem gunning every now and then. The difference: Thomas is already a locker room leader, and despite his size plays tenacious defense. Brooks isn't and doesn't. That matters to Keith Smart, as we've seen. Thomas is also younger and (stunningly) quicker than Brooks. There's a bit more upside involved, and he has the incumbent advantage. Brooks is also more of a draw-and-kick point guard. In case you haven't noticed, there aren't many Kings that can take advantage of the kick-out. Isaiah works more in the pick-and-roll, and does it devastatingly well. In this league, with this roster, that's more valuable than what Brooks offers.
What the Brooks signing is about is Jimmer Fredette, John Salmons and Tyreke Evans. Smart and Geoff Petrie were not satisfied with an Evans-led attack. They are not comfortable with a Fredette-led attack. They don't want to enter the season with any of them serving as the team's second point guard. And Lord forbid Isaiah get injured. Enter Brooks. He makes Evans an off-guard or small forward full-time. He decreases the point guard minutes Jimmer will play. He lessens the need for actual production from Salmons. He makes everyone else's job clearer, and hopefully easier.
At some point, if Isaiah struggles in his second season, perhaps the "start Brooks" train will get out of the station. No one would have predicted the "start Isaiah" movement last July, right? But that wasn't the point of signing Brooks. Brooks shouldn't be expected to be an upgrade on Thomas, because he isn't. He's a much, much better back-up than the Kings had last year. For now, that's it.