As a restricted free agent this summer, Brandon Jennings was set to wait out a staring contest with the Milwaukee Bucks while deciding between lucrative offers that he was sure would come his way. It was no secret that Jennings wanted out of Milwaukee. When the time came for teams to give him the call, however, he did not receive the attention he was hoping for and it appeared he would have to endure another year with the Bucks. That is until Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons came calling.
Pistons fans were torn, but mostly excited, about Jennings’ arrival. He had a reputation as a selfish player with poor shot selection and was not seen as a top-tier point guard. Many argued he possesses the skills necessary to become one, though. Considering what he is being paid, Detroit could have done much worse. However, he is showing exactly why league executives weren’t knocking down his door as soon as free agency opened.
Jennings can do the things you want a point guard to do well. He doesn’t turn the ball over, he can see the floor well, and he is quick enough to make defenders chase him around the court to open up the offense.
He is a pretty good passer as well; he can find his teammates for open shots when he feels like it. Unfortunately, this is one of his biggest flaws – not that he can find open teammates, but that he only does so when he feels like it. When he doesn’t feel like it he jacks up three pointers from the wing despite being a borderline-mediocre shooter from one of the game’s worst shooting areas. He will also over-dribble in search of a lane to drive through, and if he doesn’t find one he is more than comfortable taking an off-balance, contested jumper while leaning away from the basket.
This poor shot selection often results in missed shots that are rebounded by the opposition – a wasted possession. While that would not be categorized as a turnover, I tend to see it as the NBA’s equivalent to a punt. It’s not as though this is an infrequent occurrence either. Of the 329 field goals Jennings has attempted this season, 198 of them have been jump shots with 79 of them coming from behind the three point line. Of the 198 jumpers he has taken, he has only made 59. I will do the math for you – that is a shooting percentage a shade under 30 percent.
Jennings leads the team in scoring but takes nearly 16 shots per game – not numbers you typically want from your starting point guard. By contrast, Rodney Stuckey is scoring just two points fewer per game on four fewer shots and nine fewer minutes of playing time. Among qualifying point guards league-wide, Jennings ranks near the bottom in points per shot. These numbers do not suggest that Jennings is leading Detroit’s offense intelligently. One would hope for improvement under the watchful eye of coach Maurice Cheeks, an all-time great at the position.
While Jennings has the capability to rack up points and assists he is not doing so at a rate the Pistons need him to in order to elevate their overall offensive performance. Jennings is a clear upgrade at point guard when compared to Brandon Knight, but he comes with his own set of flaws. This season he is showing why many GMs felt these flaws outweighed his strengths. If Jennings cannot improve his efficiency, the best Pistons fans can realistically expect from him could be a less talented version of Allen Iverson. I think we all have a general idea of how that could pan out.