Sunday, September 25th, 2011 at 12:36 pm  |  69 responses

Top 50: Brandon Jennings, no. 43

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Abe Schwadron / @abe_squad

A year ago, a breakout season seemed inevitable for Brandon Jennings. He dropped 55 on Golden State in just his seventh career game, breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Milwaukee team rookie record. He started all 82 games as a rook, helped lead the Bucks to a post-season berth and showcased his unique combo of eye-popping speed and impossible creativity. The whispers of his Iverson-lite handle and Nash-like vision dismissed as exaggeration in his high school years were suddenly—shockingly to everyone but Jennings himself—a reality.

Yeah, Young Money looked poised to take a quantum leap in ’10-11. And 12 months later, he’s moved six spots in the Top 50…backward.


Early returns on his sophomore campaign were good—real good. In October, Jennings messed around and got a triple-double against the Bobcats, and through December, he was averaging 18.7 ppg. Over his first season-and-a-half in the L, Jennings led the Bucks in scoring, assists, steals, and games played. And then, it happened. Compton’s finest broke his foot on an awkward fall against the Spurs ten days before Christmas, sidelining him for 19 games and putting the brakes on his hot start.

Jennings returned a month later but without the same spark. His overall production dipped; he finished the year averaging fewer than five assists per contest. Milwaukee fizzled and missed the Playoffs, unable to catch a young Pacers team that locked down the eight-seed in the East despite finishing eight games below .500.

With a damning injury and an uninspiring team around him (Oscar Robertson himself wouldn’t average five assists a game if he surveyed the floor only to find Corey Maggette, Drew Gooden and John Salmons all yelling “ball!”), Jennings did little to build on a promising start to his NBA career. Which is hard to admit in print, since the nifty lefty is such a genuine, lovable character.

From the moment he made his fashionably late entrance at the 2009 Draft four picks after his name was called, he’s been one of the most fun, funny, approachable dudes in the game. He’s got California love, East Coast grit, and an Italian vocabulary to boot. If this were a list of the NBA’s “coolest” players, he’d rank in the top 10, easy.

But cool doesn’t heal broken bones, doesn’t win games or Playoff series. The end to a disappointing season for Jennings left us to wonder when next we might see the flashes he teased us with in his rookie season, and to cringe at the possibility of his ungodly amount of raw talent wasting away on a team with an annual reservation on the Playoff bubble.

In true form, Jennings didn’t give us the time to mull over such questions. Instead, he had himself one hell of a summer. Etch Jennings on the Mount Rushmore of the 2011 summer circuit next to Kevin Durant and John Wall. Up and down both coasts, and everywhere in between, Jennings has put on for his home city of Los Angeles, matching media darling Durant on both trash talk and point totals. He went for 51 in his Goodman League debut (KD’s backyard) and hung a casual 81-spot in a Long Beach charity game.

Jennings has put his game on display for whoever will watch, against any opponent. He’s shown unprecedented levels of strength, as smooth a jumper as ever and the pre-injury fearlessness that had him in All-Star discussions in late 2010.

If the third year of a point guard’s career is his most important, or most telling, then Jennings has gotten started early. And if his summer is any indication of where he’s headed, we ought to clear the runway for where he’s likely to land on next year’s list.

Few pros have a comparable collection of “holy shit” highlights that don’t end in dunks. Tantalizing to watch, a nightmare to guard and a Hollywood smile, Jennings is a potential International superstar in the making, given his Euro connections. Oh, and he turned 22 on Friday.

His slide in our ranks is temporary, and any concern over his second year comes only from knowing just how good this kid can be, the past few months the evidence. We all want more from (and for) Brandon, and without a doubt, he wants more, too. This season, he delivers.

SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2011
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Luol Deng Bulls SF 8
49 Andrew Bogut Bucks C 7
48 Ray Allen Celtics SG 9
47 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 6
46 David West Hornets PF 15
45 Kevin Martin Rockets SG 8
44 Andrew Bynum Lakers C 5
43 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 11

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’11-12 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Maurice Bobb, Shannon Booher, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Jon Jaques, Eldon Khorshidi, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Quinn Peterson, Dave Schnur, Abe Schwadron, Dan Shapiro, Irv Soonachan, Todd Spehr, Tzvi Twersky, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Ben York.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • Atrain

    This is the crucial 3rd year for Jennings, esp. being a point guard. He’s gotten bigger this offseason adding 7-8 pounds of muscle, which he needs. Hopefully he’s working on that jumper. I think the acquisition of Jackson will finally give a voice to this locker room, someone to help lead on and off the floor. Combined with Jennings maturation and a health(ier) Bogut, I’d think the Bucks take a step forward this year and get back into the postseason – whenever there is one.

  • Shem

    Jennings is one of those guys that you just want to do well. I know some people are with me on this, the swagger he brings on the court and the way that he plays the game is so much fun too watch. It’s unfortunate Milwaukee isn’t doing anything to help him out.

  • http://www.optimabbc.be Max

    There gonna be a ton of pg’s on thislist that’s for sure..

  • Showtime

    the kid will have a break out year. he really need to work on finishing in traffic at the rim. but hopefuly with the added weight he can improve that. & also with Capt jack it finally up his assist ratio. I actuall have him around 8 or 7 due to injury ahead of him.. Cp3>Deron>Rose>Westbrook>Rajon>Wall>CurrY>_Jennings>nash>billups

  • http://www.optimabbc.be Max

    Cosign Shem, when he was a rook I wanted him to win ROY so bad lol

  • T-Money

    gtfoh. dude is garbage, the worst finisher at the rim in the entire nba (look it up – hoopdata) and his jumper is broke. that 55 points game was not a curse but a blessing because people now see the potential of a top scorer in him. yanno, tony buckets once hit 50 too. i would take all theplayers that have been listed so far before bj and probably another 10-15 that didn’t make the cut. summer league warrior.

  • http://slamonline.com The Philosopher

    Many of our brethren are doubting this kid.
    He’ll be fine.
    A gifted talent.
    Now, will he live up to that talent?
    Remains to be seen.

  • http://slamonline.com The Philosopher

    Runner up to the Rookie of the Year.
    55 as a rookie.
    In the NBA. The greatest basketball league the world has ever known.
    Took a mediocre team to the Playoffs as a rookie. AND excelled.
    That team is built in Jennings’ image…
    But he’s garbage?
    In your opinion.

  • http://Slamonline.com Caboose

    My best guess is he puts up 20/4/6. Not too shabby

  • Filipe

    Sorry, Philosopher but Bucks made the playoffs with Skiles defense, Bogut’s, and 2 months of good shooting from Salmons that imporove their offense enough. Jennings was a good rookie but saying he was leading the team is too much, kid got benched for Luke Ridnour a lot even late in the season.

  • Dagger

    Sorry, I don’t buy the Jennings hype. If you look beyond the highlights his actual production it’s simply not impressive. As a scorer he makes Jason Kidd look like Michael Jordan. His shooting percentage is atrocious because he’s a horrible finisher and a worse shooter. At this point a healthy Bogut makes the Bucks a dangerous team, not Jennings. We’ll see what the future has in store but I don’t see him ever cracking the top 20.

  • Dirk Nowitzki’s Mane

    His ranking is higher then his career FG%.

  • http://slamonline.com The Philosopher

    Wasn’t Bogut hurt when they beat Atlanta?
    If he was healthy, then, my bad…
    Also, someone had to get Bogut the ball.
    Someone had to get Salmons the ball, as well.
    Since Salmons departed Milwaukee, has he had the type of season he had had when he was running with Jennings?
    Yes, Jennings has flaws. Every player does.
    But in the end, Jennings is very good, and he makes his teammates better.
    Now, Jennings was benched at the end for Ridnour. But as the article suggested, Jennings was not at full speed.

  • http://slamonline.com The Philosopher

    To continue, Bogut ALSO prodiuced a career year.
    With Jennings at the helm…
    Jennings’ rookie year, he started all 82 games. They made the Playoffs.
    The next year, he was injured, and they missed the Playoffs.
    A testament to his value to that team.
    SLAM knows what its talking about when it ranks Jennings.
    So, on Jennings’ watch, two players established career years.
    No coincidence, my brethren.

  • http://www.optimabbc.be Max

    They never beat Atl, but Bogut wasn’t with them when they took em to 7.

  • Filipe

    They didn’t beat Atlanta.
    Salmons was awful last season with Jennings. And he isos so much Jennings doesn’t had much to do of gave him the ball.
    Jennings was often benched for Ridnour in his rookie season when he was healthy (so often, in fact, Ridnour got a decent contract with Minessota out of it).

    I like Jennings, I think he has great potential, but he is not #43 best player in the NBA (he is probably not the #63 best payer either). He is right now a shot first PG who can’t shot (or even finish a lay up) that has good leadership, tries hard all the time and plays surprising good D for a young guard.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Peter Walsh

    Doo Bee Doo!

  • http://slamonline.com The Philosopher

    Epic fail on my part about the “Atlanta quagmire”.
    But yeah…
    Salmons was “awful” with Jennings?
    Was he any better with Ridnour?
    Again, a healthy Jennings makes people better.
    And Ridnour is no slouch.

  • Showtime

    the line im thinking is 21/5/7 but he will still be the bucks leading scorer. With a better Bogut and Capt jack they make the playoffs. But garbage the kid is not now evan turner eeh.

  • triyo

    I saw Jennings at the Goodman v Drew League game and I was impressed. I know its summer basketball, but he was pretty incredible. Faster and quicker than John Wall that day. I dont know if that holds true in an NBA game, but i was impressed with his speed and quickness to say the least. Hes gonna be fine.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    This has to be a joke, right? Bogut is the best and most important buck by far not jennings. Apart from that 55pt game vs a woeful GS defense, what has Jennings done that’s noteworthy? I don’t care how small or little he is, shooting under 38% for your career is downright terrible.

  • http://nba.com GP23

    You know what his biggest mistake was?… Not going to college. When he went to Europe, he was playing very limited minutes, gaining hardly any experience. If he went to a big div 1 college, he would of been a starter, and would have played a lot more, and therefore being more efficient in todays NBA. However, he will get back on track, and start playing to his potential soon enough.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Going to college would have done nothing to cure his woes, it only would have exposed his weaknesses even more and might have caused him to drop a couple spots in the draft. He made the correct decision.

  • T-Money

    WOULD HAVE!!! what’s with the would of, could of, should of thing?

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    SLAM, I know this is your boy, but come on….

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    Last time I called y’all out on a 3rd year PG i looked foolish, so I’ma just chill out on this one.

  • ctkennedy

    This list has to do with what u think gon happen this season
    cuz Jennings isnt even a TOP 20 pg in the league right now
    Deron Williams
    Chris Paul
    Derrick Rose
    Russell Westbrook
    Tony Parker
    Chauncey Billups
    Steve Nash
    Jason Kidd
    Rajon Rando
    Kyle Lowry
    Mike Conley
    Stephen Curry
    Raymond Felton
    John Wall
    Devin Harris
    Jrue Holiday
    Ty Lawson
    Jameer Nelson
    Jose Calderon R all better than Jennings RIGHT NOW …he has the talent to crack the list…the list aint about potential its bout u as a player right now

  • ctkennedy

    George Hill
    Rodney Stuckey
    Moe Williams
    Even Moe Williams got a argument
    whats the difference between Jennings n Jerryd Bayless

  • http://slamonline.com AllBall

    Jennings has the potential to be better than everyone he is ranked ahead of this season. The nature of these rankings (ranking for next season rather than the past season) means that their are going to be some assumptions.

  • http://slamonline.com Ghost

    ^ Playing time.

  • http://slamonline.com Ghost

    That was for ctkennedy.

  • ctkennedy

    @Ghost i know right
    when Bayless was gettin the burn towards the end of last season
    he was gettin more buckets n dimes than Jennings …Bayless wouldnt make NOBODY top 100 list let alone 50…lol

  • ctkennedy

    Andre Miller better than him too

  • MLK4Life

    His FG% has to improve. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be a top 10 PG in the League for the rest of his career. The highlight so far has been his 55 point game as a rookie against the Warriors who have never been known for great defense. He regressed last season. He’s put on weight and he’s been playing well this summer in games where there’s no defense. There’s no reason why the Bucks can’t make the playoffs while they still have Jennings and Bogut on the same team if they stay healthy. But John Wall has surpassed him already. D-Rose destroyed him for 30 and 17 last season. At best, he will be behind Chris, Deron, Derrick, John, Russell and Rondo for the foreseeable future.

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    Jose Calderon lol come on man, Calderon is the worst defensive PG in the NBA. And Jennings was playing a weird role offensively, they have Stephen Jackson and don’t have ball stoppers in Maggette and Salmons, his numbers are without a doubt goin to improve.

  • CeeLowe

    So not better than Bogut!!

  • ctkennedy

    Calderon has the worst defenvise center behind him n the league
    Jennings D just as bad but he got Bogut on the backline n a coach who dont play that
    On Offense Jennings get the highlights but Calderon runs a team better …gives u better spacing n dont turn the ball over
    Jennings will pass him eventually just not RIGHT NOW

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    Lol Calderon has always been horrible. Its not just because of Bargnani, his responsibility is to keep is opponent from forcing his center to bail him out. Thats just a cop out blaming the reason for the difference on the Center. Also offensively, last season, despite being on an extremely better offensive team Calderon only shot 44%, averaged 8.9 assists and 2.2TO. So he is more efficient offensively, but not that much, and he turns the ball over just as much.

  • zac

    best starting pg list
    john wall
    jammer nelson
    steph curry
    mo williams
    baron davis
    dj augustien

  • http://www.slamonline.com Slick Ric

    I see some people are sadly misinformed putting CP3 and D-Will ahead of Rose, but were going to get that straightened out when they come up.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Angel of Stern

    I wouldn’t put d-will ahead of rose but ill take cp3 anyday

  • Big AL

    @Slick Ric..I agree Rose is better thaj Cp3 n D-Will. Rose won MVP, won more games and totally inihilated them n games against played against each other. Yet peoplr still will say they are better than rose. U naysayers need to just realize that derrick has improved a lot.

  • Red

    Philosopher you’re an idiot, Salmons hasn’t had a season since being traded just this NBA draft. Do you not even know anything about basketball..?

  • http://slamonline.com The Philosopher

    Point still stand, though…
    Hell, has he (Salmons) had that kind of season before Jennings?
    And, as far as knowing anything about basketball, look me up in these archives…
    But yeah, epic fail AGAIN on my part.
    Every dog has his day.

  • http://slamonline.com Tae

    D-will>>>>Rose, right now

  • Jeremy

    Aside from that, Jennings has a lot to prove, and he will do that. He JUST turned 22, he has more talent than D-will in my eyes too, his court vision is so underrated. That top 20 list someone put up was some BS because half those dudes are trigger happy and point guard would be a term used loosely.

  • http://slamonline.com AllBall

    The majority of people that watch A LOT of basketball, so they see Paul and Rose regularly, have Paul being better. If youd had to pick one for a play-off series, it would have to be CP.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Max

    CP3 nearly won against LAL on his own..

  • http://www.slamonline.com house

    why do people keep using the Goodman league as a measuring point for how good a player is/was/can be? There is zero d played in that league which for the uniformed, means highlight reels such as what is seen on ballislife. Flashy and fun to watch yes, but not a true indicator of the player in question.

  • http://slamonline.com AllBall

    Although I expect Derrick Rose to be ranked higher than Paul in these rankings. We may not see the play-offs CP until next years play-offs.

  • Rainman

    why are ppl ranking nash below guys liek jennings, Billups? even Tony PArker. Heck, even Rajon Rondo?

    Last i check, jennings and billups even parker aint done nothing for a while now… While Nash on the otehr hand had another season with his MVP type numbers?

    Rajon Rondo? dont get em started. Nash took the assist title from him with a MUCH MORE limited offensive club… Put Nash on a team with the Celtics? easily 15 assists per game.

    Dude had 11.4 with Vince CArter in the backcourt with him…

    Come on guys, smarten up. Top 5. Easily.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Angel of Stern

    jose calderon is better than very few players and brandon jennings is not one of them. I live in canada so I watch every single raps game and there isnt a pg in this league that he could stop. Toronto couldn’t even give him away..

  • http://www.slamonline.com Angel of Stern

    also, giving him that 5 yr/40million dollar contract was the stupidest thing ever.. im still mad about that..

  • ctkennedy

    Jennings right now only do one thing better than Calderon …which is go to the rim but ONE BIG problem he cant finish so it means nothing

  • http://stapledesign.com Spaceship Jay

    Switching out any pg for CP3 on almost ANY team would take their team to the next level. I kinda don’t see why CP3 being the top pg is even an arguement.

  • http://bleacherreport.com/articles/670447-dwight-howard-and-andrew-bogut-a-tale-of-two-2011-all-nba-defensive-centers nbk

    well we can add ctkennedy to the list of hometown homers. Obviously your a Raptors fan, if you weren’t you wouldn’t be this crazy. Calderon is terrible man, he is good offensively, but he is terrible in the end. Like the offensive version of Eric Snow. Per 48 minutes, Calderon was outproduced (meaning his opponent was better then him while he was on the court) in points 24 to 18, rebounds 5 to 3.5 and in FG%. While Jennings only issue when compared to his opponent is assists (by 1.7) but he averages 1.4 less turnovers then his opponent, so the difference is amended. Now idk about you, but I’d rather take the PG who will outperform his opponent on a nightly basis, then the one who shoots a slightly higher % and gets more assists.

  • bashmo

    This man cannot shoot the basketball anywhere except for the 3 point line and free throw line. a Horrendous 37 PCT field goal shooter who hit the rookie wall. He needs to heal up and become more of a passer because his scoring is not yet refined

  • ctkennedy

    @NBK im actually a Knicks fan …even if u give Jennings over Calderon that makes Jennings the 20th best pg…lmao ….so he STILL shouldnt make the list in no shape form or fashion at all

  • MLK4Life

    Nash plays no defense. Never has. Never will. That was cool before Chris, Deron, D-Rose, and these other two way PGs came into the league. But now you have to put him behind them. Chris and Deron control games unlike anyone else. Chris, in my opinion, is number one. D-Rose is my favorite player, but if he’s missing shots, the Bulls have no chance to win. Chris can score 14 points but end up with a win and 16 assists. Watching him pick the Lakers apart in the first round was special. He’s a surgeon. So is Deron. To say that Brandon Jennings has more talent than Deron is nonsense. I’d say Derrick has a ways to go as far as picking apart teams the way Chris and Deron do. And Jose Calderon should not even get any mentions on this post at all. Let’s be serious here brothers.

  • http://bleacherreport.com/articles/670447-dwight-howard-and-andrew-bogut-a-tale-of-two-2011-all-nba-defensive-centers nbk

    I am not arguing with you that he shouldn’t be on this list, cuz I don’t personally thinks he has earned it. But I said that about Derrick Rose being a top 10 player last season, and I looked like a dope. Either way, I wasn’t arguing with the message you were sending, just the players you were choosing to send that message with.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    Cp3, D-Will, Rose, John Wall, Westbrook, Rondo, Nash, Parker, Felton, Jennings. This kid is either hated or overrated everywhere. He is good. Close if not a top 10 PG.

  • marc

    I don’t get it. You guys act like brandon jennings isn’t good. If there is a season he will have a good year. Some people just love to hate. like come on. I understand constructive criticism but damn to call a dude garbage. Mbenga is garbage not brandon jennings. sky is the limit

  • ctkennedy

    NOWHERE near a top 10 point guard n the league
    He dont even got a argument at nothing
    atleast Calderon is top5 in assist last season…lmao

  • Armando

    Paul,rose, williams, nash, parker, rondo, westbrook

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    Nope, ctkennedy. He is near top 10 PG. You either see it or you don’t.

  • ctkennedy

    i dont see it …..he a talent but he aint but it together YET to be in that convo

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    Milwaukee as an entire team was historically bad offensively. Top 5 defense, last in offense. Some blame falls on Jennings, but more should fall on management & coaching. Jennings struggled as the go-to guy, it would take a pretty good argument for you to convince me a few of those PG’s on your original list could run a team as well as jenning as the BEST offensive player. A really good one

  • zach

    Anyone who says Rose is better than D-Will or CP3 doesn’t know anything about basketball. Even the great know-it-all NBGhey knows that.

  • http://slamonline.com The Philosopher

    ^^Is that c_cantrell??