Dec 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Corey Brewer (33) drives the ball during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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Space City Scoop continues its player profile series with Corey Brewer. Will the once effective bench player be able to return to form?
When the Houston Rockets traded for Corey Brewer in December of 2014, the team was looking for some explosiveness off the bench. At the time, James Harden had no suitable backup, and Brew fit the mold perfectly. Despite coming in without the privilege of going through Houston’s training camp, he managed to become one of the team’s most productive players that season.
Sep 23, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Corey Brewer (33) during media day at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
However, all that magic seemed to disappear in the 2015-2016 campaign. Brewer’s stats regressed from previous years in nearly every single category. He was originally brought in for his ability to cut to the basket and finish in transition, but he often settled for mid-range jumpers and ill-advised threes last season. Along with the entire Houston Rockets’ roster, he also showed little effort on defense. Despite his reputation of being a hustle player, he often looked lazy and complacent when going after loose balls.
This upcoming season is a perfect opportunity for Corey Brewer to reassert himself. Many writers at Space City Scoop have been hopeful about his fit with Mike D’Antoni’s system. If he insists on getting to the basket and moving without the ball, the Greyhound can return to being one of the league’s premier bench players.
Sadly, there isn’t much to discuss when it comes to Corey Brewer’s 2015-2016 accomplishments.
After setting career highs in several categories in 2014-2015, Brewer had a dismal year in 2015-2016. He managed to average just 7.2 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.3 assists a game despite seeing over 20 minutes of floor time per contest. Considering how forgettable this past year was, there were still a few shining moments for the Drunken Dribbler.
Easily the best moment of Brewer’s 2015-2016 campaign was during JB Bickerstaff‘s first game as interim head coach. The Rockets were down by three to the Portland Trail Blazers with six seconds left in regulation. Trevor Ariza inbounded the ball to Harden from the opposite side of the court. Harden threw a wild pass to Brewer who then hit a runner from behind the arc at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. Houston went on to get the W, and it was potentially the most exhilarating moment of Rockets basketball all season.
He also put up 24 points against the Phoenix Suns and 23 points against the Toronto Raptors, but his 2015-2016 accomplishments don’t go much farther than that.
Jan 2, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard Corey Brewer (33) shoots the ball against the San Antonio Spurs during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
When he lives up to his potential, Corey Brewer is one of the best energy bench players in basketball.
Brewer is known for being quick and able to play downhill. That makes him the perfect transition player. He has a knack for leaking out at just the right moment to get open dunks and layups, and is also a crafty finisher with either hand. In D’Antoni’s run and gun system, he’ll have his fair share of opportunities to run in transition. At age 30, his athleticism is beginning to fade, but his ability to finish and sneak away from the defense for the fast break eases that concern for Rockets fans.
There’s something inexplicable about what Corey brings to the table when he’s at the top of his game. He’s a guy that energizes his teammates simply by being on the court with them. His willingness to dive on the floor for loose balls is infectious, making him the perfect spark player to get the team going during a lull.
Along the same line, he can be one of the streakiest players in the league. If he comes in feeling good and makes a couple of shots, he becomes dangerous for the rest of the game. That is best exemplified by his 51-point explosion against the Rockets during his time with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Despite regressing to just 1.0 steal a game last year, Brewer recently up averages as high as 2.3 steals per outing. That’s huge considering he’s a bench player. While he sometimes gambles for a steal only to get burned, the Greyhound comes up with far more steals than the average seventh or eighth man. Because he’s so good in transition, those steals are often times turned into points within a matter of seconds.
Nov 18, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Corey Brewer (33) shoots against the Portland Trail Blazers in the second half at Toyota Center. The Rockets won in overtime 108-103. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Corey Brewer has always struggled from the three point line, and that’s a big problem considering he plays for the team that shot the most triples over the last two years.
Apr 5, 2015; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Houston Rockets guard Corey Brewer (33) shoots the ball against Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dion Waiters (23) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Long range shooting:
Brewer has never been known as a marksman from deep, but last season was truly atrocious. He averaged about three long range attempts per game (par for the course as a Rocket), and yet averaged only 27% on those shots. To put that in perspective, if he were able to raise that percentage up to 40%, that would give his team an extra two or three points per game.
That might not sound like much of a difference, but Houston lost eight games last season by three points or less. In theory, Corey Brewer could have single-handedly brought the Rockets up to the fifth seed in last year’s playoffs simply by shooting more accurately from beyond the arc.
One of the biggest plagues of the Rockets last season was a lack of play making outside of James Harden. The team had shooters and big men, but rarely would anybody other than the Beard create shots for themselves or others. Brewer is excellent in transition and is a great with his backdoor cuts, but is not a threat at the top of the key with the ball in his hands.
Brewer’s dribbling is often out of control and he’s prone to turnovers when he tries to make his own plays. The Rockets hide this problem well by running so much of the offense through Harden, but it sure wouldn’t hurt the cause if Brewer worked on a few moves to get an open shot for himself.
Apr 18, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Corey Brewer (33) in game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
If all goes according to plan, Corey Brewer should be a perfect fit in Mike D’Antoni’s system.
The Houston Rockets are going to score a lot of points this season. Many of those points will come in transition. Playing point guard full time under Mike D’Antoni and his Seven Seconds or Less scheme, James Harden will be looking to dish the ball on fast breaks as often as possible. The Rockets’ offense will be designed to be fast paced with heavy ball movement, and that’s where Brewer thrives.
Not that Corey’s struggles can be fully blamed on Harden, but the Beard developed the habit of bogging down the offense with his ball hoarding, often times passing to teammates with just a second or two left on the shot clock. This season, that should be different.
There should be many more fast break opportunities where the Greyhound can run and gun just like he likes.
After last season’s atrocities, there really isn’t anywhere to go but up for Corey Brewer. As the primary backup for the aging Trevor Ariza, he should see plenty of floor time as long as he can be productive. His style of play is one of the most exciting types to watch, and he should be a major bench contributor in Houston this year. Hopefully, Red Nation will be able to see more of what he showcased during the 2014-2015 season.
Ever since the Rockets traded for Corey Brewer back in 2014, he’s been a fan favorite in Houston. His tenacity and effort on the court are catchy, enough to get both his teammates and his fans excited about Rockets basketball.