Dec 14, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Milwaukee Bucks point guard Monta Ellis (11) celebrates with point guard Brandon Jennings (3) in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Do the Bucks Prefer Monta Ellis to Brandon Jennings?

ESPN’s Marc Stein dropped a hint that the Bucks may be considering Monta Ellis ahead of Brandon Jennings.

 

I’ve made the argument before that Monta’s best position is point guard.  The strengths of his personal game and the numbers from last season both point to the point being his best position.

After March 20, when the Bucks traded away Beno Udrih and made Ellis the full-time backup point guard, Monta put together a frighteningly good audition.  With Ellis on the court and Jennings off, the Bucks scored 109.4 points per 100 possessions and gave up 100.1.  With Jennings and Ellis together,  they scored 92.4 and gave up 105.8.  That’s a 22.8 point differential per 100 possessions! It clearly shows that Jennings and Ellis together won’t work. The bigger question is:  will Monta as full-time point guard work?

It has it’s problems, but so does trying to lock up Jennings as a long-term answer at point guard.

The problems for Ellis:

*  He will turn the ball over a lot more than Jennings.  Brandon has the much better handle.  Ellis relies too much on his right hand when he dribbles.  The Bucks have quietly done well in the turnovers forced/committed category because of Jennings. With Ellis at point guard, they’ll commit a lot more.

*  He will still be an occasional hot mess on defense, even though he defends the ball well.  His gambling ways led to him leading all NBA guards in plays defensed (blocks+steals+charges taken), but those gambles often ended badly too.  Putting him on the ball mitigates some of his ugliness of him not properly being in the correct spot off the ball, though.

*  He doesn’t have great range and will miss a lot of shots.  The Bucks would need to surround him with shooters to give him space to operate off the dribble.  Ilyasova is under contract for next season but Redick and Dunleavy are not.

*  He reportedly got into a locker room dispute with Larry Sanders during the Bucks/Heat playoff series.  If it’s a long-term issue where he and Sanders can’t get along, that’s an issue.  Sanders is the closest thing the Bucks have to a future star.

Of course, there are problems for Jennings too.  They’re even simpler really.

*  Jennings is a shooting guard in a point guard’s body.  He has no idea how to finish in the paint and as a result, he can’t really ever be a point guard who creates.

*  He’s small. Size matters.

*  He doesn’t defend well.

Honestly, a player like Jennings may not be suited to a starting point guard job.  How different at this point is Jennings than a player like Mo Williams, another small great shooter who fared best as a scoring sixth man off the bench?

Here are the numbers for Jennings and Williams in their fourth seasons, both with the Bucks.

Rk Player Season Age G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
1 Brandon Jennings 2012-13 23 80 80 36.2 6.2 15.6 .399 2.2 5.8 .375 2.9 3.5 .819 0.7 2.3 3.1 6.5 1.6 0.1 2.5 1.9 17.5
2 Mo Williams 2006-07 24 68 68 36.4 6.9 15.4 .446 1.2 3.4 .346 2.3 2.7 .855 0.8 4.0 4.8 6.1 1.3 0.1 3.0 3.0 17.3
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/29/2013.

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There’s a slight discrepancy in their field goal percentages because Jennings took more threes, but when you use effective field goal percentage (eFG%) to balance it out, the two are nearly even:  Brandon had an eFG% of 46.8% while Williams was at 48.4%.  Those two stat lines are eerily similar, no?

In the end, it’s probably the case than neither is the long-term solution, and much clearer than neither should be getting a long term deal worth $10 million (or more) annually.  Monta has to decide on his player option by June 20.

The best scenario probably consists of Ellis opting to stay for one more season and playing the point, while the Bucks let Jennings pack up his unrealistic expectations and walk.

Tags: Brandon Jennings Milwaukee Bucks Monta Ellis

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