Milwaukee Bucks: Could Brandon Jennings have been an All-Star?

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 25: (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 25: (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) /

If you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you probably have heard about their series on Disney+ called “What If?” It goes over various hypotheticals that could have happened in the MCU had things gone differently. It’s something that basketball fans (or fans of any sport) do on a regular basis, actually. Milwaukee Bucks fans are obviously no exception.

For fans of the Bucks, a recent “what if” situation came about in Brandon Jenningsrecent podcast appearance with HoopsHype and Michael Scotto, in which Jennings said he believes that he would have been an All-Star had it not been for his Achilles tear with the Pistons.

"I would’ve been an All-Star for sure if I didn’t tear my Achilles, and I believe we would have made the playoffs that year in Detroit, and then I’d end up getting paid."

It’s not shocking that Jennings holds this belief in his abilities, but it also creates a fun thought-exercise about whether or not Jennings would have actually been an All-Star in his career if it weren’t for that devastating injury. I’ll try to withhold my bias as best I can since Jennings is one of my favorite players all-time and I obviously wish he could have been an All-Star.

Regardless, let’s look at Jennings’ very turbulent career to that point and see if he was on track for All-Star status.

Would former Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings have been an All-Star?

Although Jennings is a fan favorite among Milwaukee Bucks fans and even Detroit Pistons fans have a soft spot in their hearts for him, he never had many accolades in his career. He made the All-Rookie First Team in 2009-10 and finished a distant third in Rookie of the Year voting that season behind Tyreke Evans (first place) and Stephen Curry (second place), but was still a finalist.

The closest Jennings came to being an All-Star was in 2010-11, his sophomore season, where he finished eighth among guards in All-Star voting with over 300,000 votes. He never finished in the top ten for guards again in his career.

However, when Jennings suffered the Achilles tear, it came at a point in his career where it was trending upwards and he was beginning to come into his own as a player. Jennings was in his age-25 season in 2014-15 with the Pistons. He was averaging 15.4 points, 6.6 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Although the points were barely a career-low for him to that point (15.5 was his previous low), he was also only playing 28.1 minutes per game.

Per 36 minutes that season, Jennings averaged 19.4 points, 8.3 assists (career-high per 36), and 1.4 steals per game. He was playing at the best level of his career, as evidenced by some of his advanced metrics. He was worth 3.3 win shares in his 41 games prior to the injury, which was the lowest of his career to that point. But by win shares per 48 minutes, Jennings was actually on pace for his best season with a .136 rate, a career-best (his previous career-high was .114 in 2011-12).

Comparing it to all qualified guards, Jennings’ win shares per 48 would have been 20th and was one of only seven guards in the top 20 to be 25 or younger, according to Stathead, so there was room for him to grow as well. Additionally, he posted an insane assist rate of 39.9 percent that season, which would have been sixth in the entire league.

That was the key to his All-Star candidacy, his improved playmaking. Once he arrived in Detroit, Jennings became a much more willing passer as he didn’t have as much of a scoring burden as in Milwaukee. That improved playmaking and scoring efficiency (his 52.2 percent true shooting was a career-high) led to a career-best overall 3.3 box plus/minus while still posting the highest usage of his career at 26.3 percent.

Only seven guards in that season averaged 15 or more points on 52 percent or higher true shooting with an assist rate above 35 percent. Of those seven guards, five of them were All-Stars in those seasons. Jennings and Ty Lawson were the exceptions.

If Jennings could have stayed at that level and perhaps improved his scoring average and efficiency while maintaining such a high usage — which he was proving he could do —  then an All-Star nod was not out of the realm of possibility as he entered his prime-age seasons.

The one thing that could have held him back was his team’s performance. The Pistons were 17-27 when Jennings suffered the injury in Milwaukee and finished 32-50, the fourth-worst record in the East. That was after finishing 29-53 the season prior, so it wasn’t looking great, but he was an upcoming free agent after the following season, and who wouldn’t want a guard that posted that kind of season?

If he could have landed in a good spot with a winning team, there’s a real possibility that Jennings could have cracked an All-Star team. Especially so in the Eastern Conference which was easier for guards to make All-Star teams at the time (poor Mike Conley).

Next. Milwaukee Bucks: 3 reasons why free agent Allonzo Trier is worth pursuing. dark

It’s tough to look back on a career, especially one such as Jennings, where he was on an upswing right as he got injured, but he still had an overall solid career with the Milwaukee Bucks and beyond.