Last season, the Oregon Ducks jumped on the scene with a school record 31 wins and the first #1 seed in school history. Much of Oregon's success was predicated on the sizable improvement from sophomore forward Dillon Brooks.
Brooks, who flew under the radar as a 4-star prospect out of Ontario, has transformed into one of the league's most consistent and productive players. CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein placed Brooks in his pre-season Pac-12 first team last week, and many other pundits believe that the Ducks could have a special season in store with the return of Brooks and most of last season's Elite Eight nucleus.
Let's take a look at what we can expect from Brooks this season. All stats used in this article are courtesy of Sports Reference and KenPom.com.
Most signs pointed to Brooks as the second most effective player on offense for the Ducks last year, only behind senior center Chris Boucher. Brooks assumes the "go-to-guy" role on offense, which he should welcome with ease. Brooks finished last season with 116.1 offensive efficiency rating, second to only Casey Benson (127.4 ORtg) among qualified returnees. This is a noteworthy improvement from Brooks' freshman campaign, in which the 6-7 forward recorded a lukewarm 107.9 rating.
None of Brooks' shooting numbers this past season leaped off the page, but he did finish 20th in the Pac-12 in effective field goal percentage and 18th in true shooting percentage. Brooks was also slightly more effective against stronger competition. Against Tier A+B competition (top 50 and top 100 KenPom teams, respectively), Brooks held a 52.5 eFG%/56.4 TS%, but the numbers rose to 55.2 eFG%/58.0 TS% versus solely Tier A teams.
Defense has never been the strong suit for Brooks, but it would be far-fetched to say that it is a weakness. A solid 106.3 defensive efficiency rating jumped to an impressive 102.6 his sophomore season (a lower number is better), and Brooks also saw an increase in defensive win shares, nearly doubling his 0.9 mark as a freshman to 1.7 this last year. Steal percentages and block percentages remain fairly low for Brooks, but his overall defense has improved while his personal fouls per game slightly dipped from 3.1 to 2.9, which is always a good sign heading forward.
Playing alongside 6-10 Chris Boucher (20.5 defensive rebounding percentage) and 6-9 Jordan Bell (20.0 defensive rebounding percentage), Brooks wasn't expected to play a major part on the defensive glass. On the offensive boards, however, the Ontario native snatched down 7.1% of offensive rebounds, good for second among returning Ducks this season. Oregon also welcomes incoming freshman Michael Cage Jr., who is a menace around the rim himself.
One of the missing pieces to Brooks' game is the ability to get to the free throw line. Last season, Brooks had the second lowest FT Rate (31.1%) on the Ducks roster. When Brooks does reach the charity stripe, however, he is very effective, knocking down just over 80% of his freebies. He draws slightly more fouls per 40 minutes than he commits (4.4 to 3.6), but this number should be in the 5.5-5.7 range for him to truly make the most of his solid free throw shooting. In comparison, Washington's Andrew Andrews drew 8 fouls per 40 minutes last season. Andrews averaged 20.9 PPG last season, and 8 of his points per game were via the foul line.
Brooks could be the most important Duck this season because head coach Dana Altman will lean on the forward more than any other player on the offensive side. A substantial increase in possession percentage (22.6% to 26.0%), playing time percentage (69.9% to 82.3%) and shot attempt percentage (22.0% to 27.1%) indicates that Brooks' offensive role will be vital for the Ducks' success in '16-17.