Brandon Jennings has people flipping out. Should they be?
Playing limited minutes for a team far away from home, he struggled in his first professional season. He didn’t always play as well as he could have, and to compound that, his team’s system didn’t bring out the best in his game.
How? Why? What did he do wrong? Which GM or coach did he insult? All good questions, but all missing the point. No matter the reason, he fell in the Draft.
He was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks.
In his second pro season, he appeared ready. With his team’s best shooter on the bench, he showcased his scoring ability, dropping upwards of 20 points on the Bulls, before having a monster scoring night a few games later.
After nine games, he was hyped as the steal of his Draft class. Hailed as the truth, the haters began drinking his Kool-Aid. Articles were penned. Hyperbole spoken. Love shown.
Six years later, after ending that season with an average of 12.4 ppg, journeyman Flip Murray finds himself playing major minutes for the hapless, helpless Charlotte Bobcats.
Of course, all of this also applies to everyone’s new favorite player, Brandon Jennings.
Brandon Jennings was shown love last year…from SLAM. As Doughboy bluntly stated in Boyz N the Hood, everyone else didn’t know, didn’t show or didn’t care about what was going on with him. Now that he’s lighting up the nets, though, everyone is jumping on the 6-1, 170, bandwagon.
After his 55 point explosion this past Saturday night, not only are people hopping on the wagon, they’re doing it at a lightning fast pace, and without a second thought.
Yes, with averages of 24.8 ppg, 5.8 apg and 4.7 rpg, Brandon Jennings is doing work. So much so that eight of the nine GMs who passed on him in June should be receiving walking papers. (Mike Dunleavy receives a pass for selecting the obvious choice in Blake Griffin.) So much so that his first nine NBA games are as good as almost any rookie’s start ever. But should people be saying that the Rookie of the Year Award is already his?
A few days prior to the Draft this past June, the days when Jennings was plummeting down Draft boards, he told me the following: “I want to be in the best possible situation. Just because you’re picked high, that doesn’t mean that it’s the best situation for you. I’m just looking for a team that fits my game, and will be the best situation for me.”
As of now, Jennings’ statement appears omniscient.
With Milwaukee beginning the season with low expectations, coach Scott Skiles plays his young players, allowing them to grow and learn on the job. Add in that Ramon Sessions left to Minnesota in the offseason, and Jennings finds himself in the rare position to start at point guard as a rookie. As if that wasn’t circumstance and opportunity enough to showcase his skills, Milwaukee’s star player and leading shot-taker, Michael Redd, was injured in the second game of the season, leaving 12.5 shots per game to be picked up by teammates. In steps Brandon Jennings.
Not to take away from Jennings, though. He certainly has capitalized and made the most of the great situation that he finds himself in.
But again, so did Flip Murray, when Ray Allen went down with injury in Seattle, not too many seasons ago.
The 55 point night against Golden State? Ludicrous. Spectacular. Largely unseen, though most now claim to have been watching it.
Tim Duncan’s never scored that many points. Ray Allen’s never gotten buckets like that. Paul Pierce’s never bullied his way to a stat total like that. Dirk Nowitzki’s never double-nickeled. Many of the top scorers have never touched a number in that sphere.
The aforementioned could definitely put up numbers like that. But, one more time, it’s also about opportunity. With no other healthy, bona fide scorer on the squad, Jennings has the greenest of green lights to fire away.
Digits like that have been reached by non-stars before, though. Jamal Crawford has put up numbers in the 55-range multiple times. Michael Redd has, too. And that’s the other point: One game is one game. Yes, it shows an ability to score on anyone at anytime. But that’s it. It doesn’t prove that he’ll score on everyone every time. More than anything, it proves that Jennings landed in a good spot to showcase his game.
It was a monumental game. It was an exciting game. It was also only one game.
The Bucks will play 81 other games this year. Hopefully, Jennings will play a thousand more in his career.
So what do we really know about Brandon Jennings’s NBA prospects so far? With only a minuscule sample size to base judgments on, not much.
He could wind up being Flip Murray. Looking at the rookie numbers, he could also end up being Allen Iverson. He could be Jamal Crawford. He could be Tony Parker. He could be a flash in the pan. He could be a Hall of Famer.
While watching him soar, and just maybe slump, as a rookie, remember what Jennings said and now knows firsthand to be true: “It’s not about how high you go, it’s about the situation you go to.”