Can Bucks Build Championship Contender Around Brandon Jennings?


Brandon Jennings

When you consider Brandon Jennings level of play, maturity, and leadership skills at his stage in his career, it’s hard to consider him a player to build a serious contender around. However, he’s  only 21 years old and things could change over the next few years for the point guard.

The Milwaukee Bucks may or may not have known this when they drafted him with the 10th pick back in 2009 NBA draft. He had a relatively good rookie season and was the only member of the Bucks to rack up over 1,200 points. However, he was also the only player to attempt over 1,000 shots from the field. Jennings has no problem getting shots off, but his scoring percentage needs to be improved as it was 37.9 per cent over his first two seasons with his three-point percentage at 35.2.

Jennings led the Bucks in field goal attempts and scoring per game this season, but statistics, at least scoring ones, don’t always tell the whole story. Jennings was below average when it came to wins produced in both of his seasons. Only 10 of the club’s wins over that time can be traced back to his play when you study the overall statistics.

The Bucks can make the playoffs with Jennings though, but need to get some luck in the injury department as well as more production from their guards. They don’t have anybody above average in the backckcourt and possess the worst offense in the NBA.

Of course, basketball’s a team game and as Jennings has reminded us, his teammates also need to shoulder some of the blame for the Bucks’ lack of success lately. For instance, Jennings’ assists per game fell to 5.1 this year from 6.3 last season. He’s still making the passes, but his teammates are failing to sink the baskets as their shooting percentage is also mediocre.

Jennings has always considered himself to be a pass-first type of guy, but he’s quite a long way from averaging anywhere near 10 assists per game. But that’s not really something he can fix by himself. His teammates do need to pick up their shooting percentage dramatically for Jennings to be effective.

His leadership qualities are also in question as is his penchant for speaking out against teammates when things aren’t going his way. Bucks’ coach Scott Skiles took responsibility for this year’s 35-47 record, but said the team lacks leadership in the locker room. He had mixed words when he spoke of Jennings’ in that regard.

“I would not assume that Brandon has any of those abilities yet…just because he has the ball in his hands all the time. It’s something we constantly talk about. It’s something he’s trying to work towards but it doesn’t come naturally to him so it’s definitely a work in progress.”

The team shouldn’t be relying on a 21-year-old to take them to the Promised Land just yet though, but Skiles bases his opinion on day-to-day dealings with his players in all aspects of the game, from practices, to road trips, to games, etc.

Jennings obviously has a lot of talent and doesn’t lack in confidence, but he should keep team matters private instead of airing them publicly in the future. While some experts feel it’s fine to speak your mind since it can motivate players others feels it alienates teammates. It’s a fine line and needs to be handled with care.

The Bucks lost some leadership when Jerry Stackhouse and Kurt Thomas left last season and it was obvious they thought Jennings and Andrew Bogut would step up and replace it, both and off the court. But things didn’t pan out that way.

Jennings still has a very bright future ahead of him and his teammates certainly do need to pick up the pace. It’s possible when he hits his peak, matures, and starts showing more leadership qualities, the Bucks will be able to consider him an important building block.

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