Stat: When Monta Ellis is on the floor, Brandon Jennings has a +/- of -1.0 per 36 minutes. With Ellis on the bench, Jennings’ +/- rises all the way to +16.3.
Take: That these two have struggled to coexist since Milwaukee acquired Ellis at the trade deadline is hardly a surprise. It was assumed by most that there was so much redundancy in the games of these two – score-first, shot-happy, inefficient, undersized, hyper-quick, inconsistent, and countless other similar adjectives/phrases – that Milwaukee would be lost on offense and exploited on defense. And all that’s been true for the most part when they have taken the floor together.
Jennings, in particular, is negatively affected by the presence of his new backcourt mate. The stats tell the whole story. Playing with Monta, Jennings averages 17.4 points, 16.1 FGA, 2.2 FTA, and shoots 44% from the field. When Ellis is on the bench? Jennings has healthy splits of 24.3/18.6/4.1/51% to go along with that huge +17.3 differential in plus/minus. Clearly the freewheeling lefty prefers when his taller, older doppelgänger rides the pine.
But does Ellis? That’s where it gets interesting for Milwaukee, because the numbers tell two very different tales.
Monta’s splits when paired with Jennings in the Bucks backcourt: 19.9 PTS/17.0 FGA/4.6 FTA/46% FG. With Jennings on the bench: 12.4/14.2/2.4/38%. Obviously, Ellis is much more successful individually when he’s on the floor with Jennings even if the opposite is far from true. But what’s confounding on the surface are the +/- marks of Ellis. You’d think his -1.0 number with Jennings would plummet fo farther depths without the latter on the bench given the numbers, but it actually rises to a stellar +13.3.
This is all very confusing, so a quick recap is in order before we expound.
- Jennings fares far better without Ellis on the floor both individually and in plus/minus.
- Ellis fares far better playing with Jennings individually, but despite that his plus/minus rises drastically with Jennings on the bench.
- Jennings-Ellis plus/minus: -1.0
- Only Jennings: +16.3
- Only Ellis: +13.3
There are too many factors at play to glean much from these backwards +/- stats of Ellis, but one assumes they’re heavily influenced by the presence of awesome bench performers Beno Udrih and Ersan Ilyasova. Each has a stellar +/- minus mark for the year overall and passes the eye-test with flying colors. The latter in particular has been one of the better stories of this NBA year, all of a sudden capable of stringing several double-doubles on top of one another due to his vast improvement as a long range shooter and rebounder.
Back on topic, the Ellis trade was one that didn’t make sense to a lot of folks from the Milwaukee perspective for the very reason discussed here. Bringing in a player like him was bound to handicap the development – if there’s any more left, that is – of Jennings if the lefty wasn’t able to change his game, and thus far he’s been unwilling.
This will no doubt be a situation to watch closely as Jennings enters the final year of his contract next season. Though it appears unlikely the Jennings/Ellis backcourt duo will be able to thrive based on these numbers, coach Scott Skiles had success with a relatively similar pairing in Chicago (Hinrich/Gordon) and will get a full offseason to figure things out. But if these guys can’t make major adjustments or Skiles can’t overhaul the Bucks playing rotation, this pairing seems doomed to fail, just like so many thought it would from the beginning.