Why Brandon Jennings is not an elite point guard

Apr 14, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings (3) during the game against the Indiana Pacers at the Bradley Center. The Pacers defeated the Bucks 105-99. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Brandon Jennings is due for a contract extension and sure enough, he would like to have one before the season opens. His demand, in dollars, we do not know. But how much is Brandon Jennings worth? It depends on who you ask. This isn’t fact, but I’m sure if you ask Jennings himself, you would encounter the word “max” more than a few times. After all, he contends that he and backcourt teammate Monta Ellis can “can score like crazy.” Now, if you’re asking me, Jennings is not a max player in the least and he’s not an elite point guard either.

His path to the NBA is an unconventional, but great story and he has plenty of people rooting for him because of it. When he dropped 55 points on the Warriors in only the seventh NBA game of his career, people were sold on his scoring ability. Now I’m not saying that I’m not sold on his scoring, the guy can fill it up, but in terms of the true point guard position and the criteria that one is measured on, which is consistently making everyone else around him better, I’m not convinced that Jennings is a max guy or should be considered among the “elite.” Here are the two major reasons why:

  • Like I said, a point guard’s primary duty is to make his teammates better. There’s no way you can be considered elite if your career assists average is only 5.4 per game. Last season, Jennings ranked 17th in the league with 5.5 per game, even a few spots below his own “shooting guard” teammate Monta Ellis (6.0 apg). Almost unbelievably, the Bucks were the highest scoring team in the Eastern Conference (99.0 ppg) and Jennings still averaged less than 6 assists per game. This simply confirms the obvious… Jennings is absolutely a shoot-first point guard. The Bucks have a ton of talent on the roster, but for them to get back into the playoffs, he needs to become more involved in the distribution of the rock, not just putting up shots.
  • That last point is a perfect transition into the next, more significant knock on Jennings, and it’s a big one… his shooting percentage or shot selection. Brandon is a pure volume shooter and while he did average almost 20 ppg (19.1 ppg to be exact) last season, he needs a ton of shots to do so. Typically, this is not a good thing out of your undersized point guard. His FG% did improve each of his three seasons, but he still only managed .418% overall, a very low number. Considering he ranked 5th in the entire NBA in field goal attempts last season (he ranked 2nd in 3-point field goal attempts), his low percentage really hurts the team. He does shoot well from the line (81%), but doesn’t get there nearly enough to make a big impact. He absolutely needs to beware of his overzealous trigger and take higher percentage shots.

There is no doubt, Brandon Jennings is a very solid player and is currently underpaid (only making $3.2 million in 2012-13). When extension talks actually begin, the conundrum will become, to what degree do the Bucks feel he is underpaid? I sure hope they don’t dish out the max simply because the guy can score while putting up 17 shots a game… there’s simply more to the point guard position than jacking threes and trying to get over 20 points a night.

Recently, with respect to the Bucks playoff chances, Jennings was quoted as saying: “To be honest, I think everybody is (feeling pressure). We’re all on the bubble right now,  because we need to win. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on all of us, not just the coaching staff or the GM. We all know this could be it so we need to turn it around right now.”

I hope Jennings realizes that his own personal “turning things around” includes being the floor general of this team and shaping his game to include his teammates more effectively. Don’t get me wrong, I think Jennings is a borderline star in the league and I’m totally high on the Bucks playoff hopes this year. However, “elite” point guard status is still a few less field goal attempts away and I’ll be rooting for exactly that.