Oregon junior forward Dillon Brooks received his third Pac-12 Player of the Week award of the season today. Next week he should receive the conference's individual award that matters the most.
The Pac-12's coaches should overlook raw statistical numbers and award Brooks conference player of the year in the days following the Ducks' final regular season game Saturday at Oregon State (5-25, 1-16). It's not a slam-dunk by any stretch, but the case for Brooks will be difficult for anyone to ignore.
A national player of the year candidate, Brooks is the best player on the conference's best team. No. 6 Oregon (26-4, 15-2) is a win away from clinching at least a share of the Pac-12 regular season championship with No. 7 Arizona (26-4, 15-2). The Ducks hold the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to an 85-58 win over Arizona at home on Feb. 4.
Last week Brooks averaged 18 points on 52 percent shooting while leading the Ducks to a sweep of California and Stanford in two games that were much closer than they should have been.
During the team's 68-65 win Wednesday at California, Brooks had a team-high 22 points, including a game-winning three pointer with two-tenths of a second remaining. He scored seven of his points in the final three minutes of the game.
Brooks scored 14 points with four assists during UO's 75-73 win at Stanford (14-14, 6-10), on Saturday.
The Ducks, a No. 1 seed in last year's NCAA Tournament after claiming both the regular season and tournament championships, have a chance to do the same this year, and that's thanks mostly to the play of Brooks, who overcame two foot injuries to get UO into this position.
Statistically, his numbers don't jump off of the stats sheets as much as his play. Brooks' 15.6 points per game ranks 10th in the conference. He is shooting 51.7 percent from the field (15th) and 42.3 percent from three-point range (6th). His 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, however, certainly aren't impressive.
Last year, Utah forward/center Jakob Poeltl, now in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors, received the Pac-12 player of the year award over Brooks after averaging 17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Poeltl's numbers overshadowed Oregon's team success with Brooks as the lead player averaging 16.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
That shouldn't happen again even though there is some tough competition.
The two leading scorers in the conference are Washington freshman Markelle Fultz (23.2) and Arizona State senior Torian Graham (18.3). But their teams are under .500, so they shouldn't receive much consideration. Brooks would put up similar, if not better numbers on their teams.
Stanford forward Travis Reid has probably the best all-around numbers, averaging 17.7 points (third) and 8.8 rebounds (5th). But the Cardinal weren't a threat this season.
UCLA freshman forward T.J. Leaf (16.8 points and 8.7 rebounds) has been impressive but he will surely be overshadowed by UCLA freshman guard Lonzo Ball (15.8 points, conference-leading 7.6 assists and 6.2 rebounds).
In fact, the flashy and talented Ball, a sure high lottery pick should he decided to turn professional this summer, is the likely favorite. The No. 3 Bruins (26-3, 13-3) are a national title contender and Ball, two-time player of the week, is their leader. His all-around numbers, which includes 1.9 steals per game (second in the conference) can't be ignored.
That said, Brooks' impact can't be solely judged by statistics. He clearly has the ability to do more in all areas but hasn't needed to on a Ducks team that spreads the wealth around.
Plus, the injury factor can't be overlooked. Brooks, who missed his team's first three games before returning on a minutes restriction that lasted another eight games, has averaged just 23.2 minutes per contest while playing 25 minutes or less in 14 outings. Give him another 10 minutes of action per game and his scoring, based on shots per minute, would jump to around 20 points per night.
Ball, by comparison, has averaged 35 minutes per game.
The boost Brooks could need to overcome his statistical inferiority to other contenders could come from his two dramatic game-winning shots, the one at Cal and the three-point basket he made to defeat Ball and the Bruins, 89-87 at home on Dec. 28.
Without those two moments, the Ducks would not be one win away from earning at least a co-championship.
That fact, and Brooks' overcoming injuries to lead his team to a likely conference co-championship, make him the conference's player of the year.
We will find out next week if the conference's coaches agree.