This has been the summer of Dillon Brooks’ life. He capped off an impressive run of international play by turning in a masterpiece in last weekend’s third-place game at the 2023 FIBA World Cup between Canada and the United Sates. In leading Canada to the 127-118 win, Brooks was the star of the show, scoring a game high 39 points, to go along with 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks. He shot 12-for-18 from the floor and a sizzling 7-for-8 on three-point attempts. He even received some MVP chants from the crowd.
The performance came on the heels of his showing in the quarterfinals against Slovenia when he scored 14 points, to go along with 3 assists, and 3 rebounds, but more importantly, frustrated Slovenia’s Luka Doncic into an 8-for-20 shooting night. That defensive effort helped Canada advance.
The Houston Rockets are hoping that Brooks’ strong play translates to the regular season after they awarded him a four-year, $86 million contract this summer as part of an offseason facelift that also saw them come to terms with veteran point guard Fred VanVleet in an effort to infuse leadership and professionalism into a lockerroom in desperate need of both qualities.
The headline figure on the contract was met with raised eyebrows across the league, particularly given all four seasons are guaranteed and Brooks did not appear to have any other suitors. (Brooks will earn $22.627 million in 2023-2024). But when viewed in the context of the league’s economics, the amounts are probably perfectly appropriate. Article VII, Section 2 of the league’s new collective bargaining agreement—in effect this season—calls for teams to meet a minimum team salary threshold (90% of the salary cap) by the first day of the regular season with certain defined penalties if not met. This change precludes the practice by teams with cap space of “renting out” that cap space to teams seeking financial relief by taking on undesirable assets in return for assets which would have otherwise been available to the Rockets.
In addition, with a new media rights deal anticipated prior to the 2025-2026 season, estimated to double the league’s current deal, and with the collective bargaining agreement allocating roughly 50% of BRI to the players, even with a 10% cap on annual salary cap growth built in, player salaries will be skyrocketing very shortly. By its final year, in 2026-2027, Brooks’ contract should appear very average, especially for a defender of Brooks’ pedigree.
This is all without even taking into account Brooks’ expected on-court production where he projects to be the opening day starter at small forward, and may need to fill an even larger role than expected with backup wing Kevin Porter Jr.’s future in jeopardy due to legal troubles. Brooks will draw the toughest assignments each night and hopefully impart some wisdom to his wing counterpart, Jalen Green.
Indeed, the Rockets hope an impressive summer carries over into the regular season. They’ve invested heavily in Brooks, and were wise to do it. Will they reap the rewards?