By most accounts Brandon Jennings had a great rookie year for the Milwaukee Bucks. He came in as a longshot hope for most of us fans, he was too skinny, couldn’t shoot and was labeled numerous non-flattering things from ESPN(EspeciallySelfPromotingNetwork).
Note: I stole that ESPN thing, but love it. Could the show “The Decision” have been a better example of how ridiculous that network has become?
In the next few weeks or so I will compare Jennings to previous point guards and the amount they improved from their rookie to sophomore seasons in the NBA. I will start with Chris Paul who is looked upon by most NBA fans and experts as the gold standard at the point guard position.
Jennings lived up to our hopes. We knew he would provide some highlights, we were unsure of the substance. He was a starting rookie point guard on a team with average talent and won 46 games and made the playoffs. He lit it up for 55 points in one game. He showed in the playoffs to be more than ready for the moment in displaying amazing ability and toughness to keep the team in it in the first two games when nothing was going right. For us Buck fans it was a great rookie season where not much more could have been asked.
Now, what can we expect for improvement.
Jennings Rookie Stats
The highlights are 82 games played and 32.6 minutes per game. He played every game and he played a lot. He scored 15.5 points per game with 5.7 assists and was a 81% FT shooter. The fact his FT% is so good gives me a lot of hope that Jennings can improve his two biggest weaknesses.
Areas To Improve
3 Point Shooting% consistency, FG%, Assists and Steals. Jennings shot 81% from the line meaning he has the stroke and muscle memory to be a good shooter. One thing that will help his FG% will be time and respect in the league. Jennings got hammered a lot while driving that received no call, that is expected as a rookie. It is also expected that he get some of those calls as time goes on in the league. You convert three of those misses each night into fouls called, Jennings FG% jumps to over 46%. The calls will come.
The 3 Point Shooting% was fine, 37% is more than respectable and will continue to go up depending on the work Jennings puts in. Jennings needs to work on his consistency, some nights his shot just wasn’t there, at all. Other nights he couldn’t miss, a happy medium that can be more dependable will hopefully come with time. I am confident he has the work ethic to become more consistent. When he was on, he was really on. When he was off, he was really off. This is as important of an area as any for Jennings. With his speed and quickness he will have open opportunities because defenses have to respect his driving ability.
The Assists will go up when the Bucks get more quality finishers. Jennings was robbed of several assists due to the recipient of the pass being setup for a high quality shot near the bucket but a foul would wipe it out. Good finishers can convert these opportunities into And-1 instead of just two free throws. Drew Gooden, Corey Maggette and CDR should be able to help with this, along with Ersan getting another year of experience. With just two more conversions per game Jennings assist numbers can climb to nearly eight per game.
Steals will hopefully come as Jennings should be more comfortable in Scott Skiles defensive system. Jennings is incredibly quick, with quick hands. As he learns to come off of his man more often to get steals from unsuspecting oppontents he will really be able to display the danger he can provide on the defensive end. Then a Jennings steal will lead to a Jennings led Bucks fast break, which will usually end in an assist, score or an And1.
Chris Paul’s Rookie Season
I will use Paul as my first comparison in the series. When looking at the rookie stats the 3P% was better for Jennings. Paul had more rebounds and steals and slightly more assists and points. In Chris Paul’s second season the biggest jumps were in points, 17.3, and assists 8.9. The steals and rebounds went slightly down.
Chris Paul is not out of Brandon Jennings reach when you look at the stats and that is incredibly encouraging. Paul came into the league much more polished having actually played two years of college basketball. Jennings was essentially stuck with a year of practice in Europe, rarely getting playing time as the season went on.
With Luke Ridnour out as a backup point guard the minutes for Jennings will go up, hopefully not too much, but they will go up. When you add slightly higher minutes, say 36 per game, with more consistent shooting from 3, getting a couple more fouls per game, slightly better FG%, and some better finishing by teammates, it is not out of the realm of possibility to expect an average line from Jennings like the following:
Line: 36 mins, 18pts, 8 ast, 5reb, 2.5 stl
That line above would be a great goal. Any improvement in just one of the categories should be expected due to the experience and confidence gained from last season. Great players are able to improve their games in several areas, if Jennings is to become a great player he has a chance to start proving that next season.