Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings: Two roads diverged

Often times in the sports world, personality traits that fuel a player’s popularity are the same ones that turn them into the scourge of a fan base. Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings is standing at that crossroads of his short career, and now faces his toughest test as an NBA point guard and team leader.

Brandon Jennings was a breath of fresh, swagger-y air for the Milwaukee Bucks during their run to the 2010 NBA playoffs. Jennings the rookie brought character and flash to a team that hadn’t tasted confidence like his since the days of George Karl.

Now, Jennings is coming off a disappointing season rife with sound bites reflecting his trademark bravado through a thin filter most would call normal for someone that has only been able to legally drink for less than a year. The only problem with Jennings as a 21-year-old is that he plays the most important position on the world’s biggest basketball stage.

Many of Jennings comments have drawn criticism from fans, teammates, and media members alike. After all, cockiness confidence and unfiltered personal expression is only accepted in sports when the player in question has put more Ws on the board than Ls.

Much like Bucks GM John Hammond, Brandon Jennings has gone from the Milwaukee Moses to expendable in the eyes of some. Jennings certainly deserves a fair share of criticism for his play and public grievances throughout the Bucks 2010-11 campaign, but at the end of the day he’s still the same promising, vocal talent he was a year ago.

Nearly everyone on the 2010-11 Milwaukee Bucks roster experienced some form of a career regression, but Brandon Jennings actually improved in a few key areas (for an NBA point guard). From Year 1 to Year 2 of his career, Brandon Jennings became smarter as a shooter and was more confident maneuvering into lane traffic jams. He also progressed as a ball handler and distributor, despite captaining the Bucks worst shooting offense (43%) since 1968-69 (42.8%).

Assists and turnovers are two basic measures of an effective point guard, and while Jennings assists dropped (not entirely his fault, seeing as he couldn’t shoot after he passed), he reduced his turnover rate (12.37) and maintained a very respectable 2.09 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Jennings finished 11th in shots at the rim among point guards (2.1-4.0, 51.4%), and took 39% of his shots within 9 feet of the basket. Jennings isn’t afraid of contact, and a few extra pounds of muscle should boost his inside shooting percentage.

A third of Jennings’ shots came from three point range, leaving roughly 27% of his shots coming from no man’s land between 10-23 feet. Although his perimeter shooting percentage was down from his rookie season (1.6-4.8, 32%), Jennings shot 37.2% in 27 games before injuring his ankle in January.

Brandon Jennings has definitely been the victim of his own early success, and the 2009-10 season raised expectations on a would’ve been sophomore with only a season averaging 17-20 minutes of European basketball under his professional belt. Jennings has said that his time in Europe helped him mature quickly as a player, but he showed definite signs of youth at times this year.

Jennings is the key to starting the 1989 LeBaron that is the Milwaukee Bucks offense, and has stated that he wants to be a go-to player in pressure situations. The microscope over Brandon Jennings has never been bigger heading into his second NBA offseason, and the next five months will be decisive in proving whether his play and leadership come in the same size as his confidence.

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