Has Brandon Jennings Finally Figured It Out?
It seems like Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings has always marched to the beat of his own drum and while his style has produced a lot of ardent fans, it has also raised questions about his ability to effectively lead a NBA team. What Jennings did this summer may have answered some of those questions.
When Jennings graduated from Oak Hill Academy in 2008, the young man headed off to play professional basketball in Italy instead of attending a college in the United States. The move may have cost him several spots in the NBA Draft a year later, but it didn’t take long after being selected tenth overall by the Bucks in 2009 for Jennings to make a huge splash in the USA. Barely two weeks into his rookie season, Jennings hung 55 points on the Golden State Warriors and his reputation as a scoring point guard was cemented in stone.
Four Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month awards later and Jennings was on route to averaging 15.5 points per game as a rookie. The only issue? He was taking a team leading 14.8 shots per game to score those points. After three seasons, it seems little has changed. Jennings still leads his team in attempts per game and his career shooting percentage is still under 40 percent.
With that said, Jennings wants to improve and he has a reputation for working hard to expand his game.
“One thing about Brandon, when he wants to get away to work on his game, you won’t see him,” said DeMar DeRozan, who is friends with Jennings. “That’s one thing about this summer. I saw him a couple of times here and there, but he definitely stayed isolated working on his game. He doesn’t like anyone figuring him out or letting people know that he is working on anything. You can tell as he doesn’t really play in too many leagues back home, so he won’t give away what he has been working on for the season.”
What has stood out in the preseason is Jennings’ field goal percentage. He’s averaging 46.6 percent from the field through his first five games and hitting more than half of his three-point attempts. If Jennings can hold onto even half of this improvement from last year, no one will be complaining about the number of shots he takes.
“That’s one of the things he always did, shoot a lot of threes,” DeRozan said. “Even when he played in the summer, that’s all he did was shoot threes from three feet behind the pro line just to extend his range.”
“I don’t know how much stock you put in these games,” Bucks head coach Scott Skiles said. “Certainly I know he feels good about it and we would rather he shoot the ball well than not, but if he was shooting the ball poorly, I would probably give the same answer. For most of the point guards in the league, it’s not realistic for them to shoot up around 50 percent because the ball ends up in their hands with the shot clock going down and they have create something and occasionally take a bad shot and things like that just happen in the course of a game. When his feet are set and he is taking good shots, like right now and he is in a bit of a groove right now, we hope he can keep it going.”
Some of what seems to be going right for Jennings this preseason is a greater reliance on the effective playmaking of Monta Ellis and Mike Dunleavy. Through his first five games, Jennings has done a better job of letting other players make him better.
“More or less, Brandon is shooting and scoring right now because guys like Monta are driving and kicking to him and guys like Mike,” Skiles said. “They know when they play together that has been Brandon’s best shot. Spotting up, feet set for threes or twos, those are good shots for him.
“Brandon has done a really good job so far in this exhibition season of taking good shots. A good shot is a shot you can make on a regular basis and for everybody it’s different. For him, he is taking pretty good shots. He has a nice little floater he can make in the lane and he is taking that. He has a spot-up three and knocks it down. He made more shots at the rim last year than he did before, so he is getting better there. Those things add up to a good shooting percentage if you do that.”
However, in the Bucks’ recent preseason game in Toronto, Jennings missed a couple of early good looks and then forced his game into a very poor 3-15 shooting performance that included 0-6 from three. While Jennings was obviously frustrated with his shooting versus the Raptors, he did manage to hand out a very respectable 10 assists and if he can regain his shooting composure, this one bad night will become merely a blip on the radar.
This preseason, Jennings has been more disciplined in his shot selection and more willing to let other ball handlers put him in a position to succeed. If this trend continues into the regular season, Jennings really will have figured it out and the Bucks will be a much more dangerous team as a result.