When the Milwaukee Bucks traded Brandon Jennings in a sign-and-trade deal this summer for Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton, many Bucks fans exhaled a sigh of relief.
It seemed a forgone conclusion that Monta Ellis would not be back in a Bucks uniform, but Jennings’ situation was different. He had little to no interest from other teams on the free agency market, and it seemed that the Bucks might just match a cheap offer or Jennings would accept the qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent in 2014.
But the wishes of many Bucks fans were granted when the Bucks received two young players in return who have shown flashes this season. While many thought initially that Knight was the main piece in return, Middleton has been arguably the most consistent player for the Bucks this season (46 percent from the field, 41 percent from three).
Before the season began, opinions on the year’s outlook were mixed. Some figured that the Bucks’ eagerness to bring in veterans such as O.J. Mayo, Gary Neal, Carlos Delfino, Luke Ridnour and Zaza Pachulia would equate to another fringe eighth to ninth seed team in the Eastern Conference. Others, predicted that the Bucks would be one of the worst six to eight teams in the league.
Tonight, Milwaukee (3-14) sits as the worst squad in the NBA. Injuries to Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova have certainly played a part. Despite Caron Butler’s injury, the Bucks are still struggling to win games, despite the increased ball movement. Many fans and media members alike seemed to have downplayed the absence of Ellis, Jennings and even Mike Dunleavy heading into this year.
The Bucks replaced Ellis (19.2 ppg.), Jennings (17.5) and Dunleavy (10.5) with Caron Butler and O.J. Mayo. It just hasn’t worked out. Depending on if you are pro-tank or pro-playoffs, it will be either one of the most exciting seasons of Bucks basketball you have watched in years, or a nightmare. Regardless, Jennings fans and haters must realize that as they watch the former Buck fail to run pick and rolls, dribble, shoot and dribble some more–that his absence is a large part of the Bucks’ ineptitude on offense this season. For better or for worse.
Jennings is passing the ball better than he ever has in his career. So far, the former Buck is posting 8.2 apg., 29.3 assist percentage and 9.1 assists per 40 minutes–all career highs if the season were to end today.
But perhaps he should pass a bit more.
Jennings is posting a true shooting percentage of just 48.3 and scoring 17.6 points per 40 minutes. Those numbers would rank second to last and last in his career respectively. And despite being on a more talented Pistons team, he is still attempting 14.9 field goal attempts per game. He shot 15.6 last season.
Detroit (8-10) is off to a slow start out of the gates, after many pegged them as likely playoff contenders in the Eastern Conference. With Jennings, rookie shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and newly signed forward Josh Smith, the Pistons have plenty of swag and talent to go with big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
Detroit defeated the Miami Heat last night 107-97, showing that they are capable of putting together good stretches of basketball. The Pistons beat Milwaukee handedly 113-94, on Nov. 25 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. While the Bucks actually outscored the Pistons in the paint 42-40, they were once again plagued by turnovers (18) and poor shooting (6-of-19 from three-point range).
As Milwaukee showed on Saturday night, to win games they will need multiple players to be hitting their shots from outside. For whatever reason, the Bucks cannot hit their twos.
While many fans who have watched Jennings play know he’s inefficient and loves to chuck up shots, he also plays with a competitive fire in certain games. His first game back at the BMO Harris Bradley Center should be a similar game. On March 19, 2010, many media members had already viewed the Rookie of the Year Award as Tyreke Evans’ to lose. Brandon Jennings dropped 35 on the Kings that night.
While he of course did not win the award, he did later say that he was the only rookie to lead his team to the playoffs. He said that mattered to him more than the award. From that, to “Bucks in Six”, whenever Jennings feels slighted, he elevates his game. Or at least he tries.
Plenty of shots and plenty of swag.
Tonight should be fun.