by Brendan Bowers / @BowersCLE

Brandon Jennings fell five spots from last season’s Top 50 ranking, but he appears ready to begin trending the other direction.

After first arriving on the NBA scene, expectations for Jennings went through the roof. His rookie campaign was highlighted by monumental performances—none bigger than hanging 55 on the board in game number seven.

But as his first season continued, those brilliant moments were eventually overshadowed by inconsistent play. Expectations for what Jennings could potentially become as a player began to slowly erode.

During that ‘09-10 season, Jennings failed to hit for double figure points in 27 percent of his games. In his second season, despite an injury that kept him out for 19 games, that number decreased to 22 percent.

Better, but still not what’s required of a franchise-caliber point guard.

This past season though, that consistency improved dramatically for Jennings. Despite the rigors of a condensed schedule, and the change associated with a blockbuster trade like the one that eventually paired him with Monta Ellis in the Milwaukee Bucks’ backcourt, Jennings reached double figure points in 89 percent of his games.

He started all 66 for the Bucks during the ‘11-12 season, and scored 10 points or more in 59 games. If you are going to be that guy your team relies on to put points on the board, you need to show up and the do that every single night. For the most part, Jennings did last season.

Now he needs to keep building in year four.

Those numbers he’ll need to build on were career bests in points at 19.1, as well as field-goal percentage at 42 percent. Jennings shot 39 percent and 37 percent, respectively, in each of his previous two seasons, finishing with 16.2 points in year two and 15.5 as a rookie.

More than improving statistically, however, Jennings also demonstrated a professional maturity that most people simply assumed he lacked. When Ellis came over from Golden State, there did end up being enough shots available for both of them because Jennings made himself a willing teammate.

His assist totals were better during the month of March while playing with Monta than they were in January, before he arrived. His field-goal percentage also increased. The Bucks made a late run at the eighth spot in the East because of it, and the team has a chance to be a Playoff team again this season.

Despite the incremental progress in year three though, Jennings is still in a precarious situation.

He’s only 23 years old, but like Tyreke Evans, he is a player perceived to be falling with respect to his status around the League. That’s why he only comes in at No. 48.

Part of that is fair, and part of that isn’t.

Jennings didn’t necessarily ask for comparisons to Allen Iverson when dropped 55, but at that moment the comparisons were inevitable. The flashes of brilliance were really there.

Unfortunately for Jennings, his inconsistency early on may have even overshadowed what he accomplished this past season. The progress he made wasn’t enough to shift public opinion.

He has an opportunity to re-direct all that right now.

If Jennings increases his scoring average, field-goal percentage, and assist totals by the same margins this season as he did last year, he’ll end up at 22 points and 6.2 assists per game on 45 percent shooting from the floor.

Maybe not Iverson-lite type numbers, but certainly much closer to what everyone initially expected.


Where should Brandon Jennings rank in the SLAMonline Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
RankPlayerTeamPositionPos. Rank
50Greg MonroePistonsC8
49Tyreke EvansKingsPG14
48Brandon JenningsBucksPG13

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.