Brandon Jennings likely to return to Milwaukee Bucks Saturday

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Brandon Jennings

David Joles/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT

On his weekly Thursday night radio show on Sports Radio 1250 WSSP, Milwaukee Bucks GM John Hammond said the chances Brandon Jennings plays Saturday night against the New Jersey Nets are higher than the chances he’ll remain sidelined.

After a six week absence, during which the Bucks have gone 7-11, Jennings return to the court will be major help to a team that is becoming the Eastern Conference’s version of the perpetually injured Portland Trail Blazers. But if Wednesday night’s 98-90 win over the Atlanta Hawks taught us anything, it’s that the point guard position is part of the offensive solution, not the problem.

By Jake McCormick

The Bucks’ offensive woes go far deeper than the loss of their starting point guard, and Jennings’ veteran replacements have more than held their own in his place. Keyon Dooling and Earl Boykins have strung together admirable performances in Jennings’ absence.

Against the Hawks, Boykins scored 11 of his 20 points in fourth quarter crunch minutes, and he has combined with Dooling to keep the Bucks point guard role the team’s most productive offensive position on the court. Milwaukee point guards lead all five positions in PER (16.1), points per game (21.7), effective field goal percentage (46.4%), and assists (7.8).

Through December and January, Dooling and Boykins responded to increased responsibility with higher offensive production:

Keyon Dooling: 40.6% fg, 40.8% 3fg, 4.6 asts, 9.2 ppg (25 games) 11.7 PER on the season

Earl Boykins: 41.4% fg, 37.2% 3fg, 3.2 asts, 11.8 ppg (18 games) 16.5 PER on the season

Both players have higher shooting percentages than Jennings since shouldering more minutes per night, and have a better overall +/- (for what that’s worth). Dooling and Boykins have filled the leadership role as well as can be expected for a couple of veterans who understand the expectations at their position.

Brandon Jennings may score in different ways than Boykins and Dooling, but the statistical end results should average out around where the position stands offensively right now. Any spike in offense will most likely come from Jennings presence on the court as a passer and scoring threat, not from his actual scoring numbers themselves.

Make no mistake about it; a healthy Brandon Jennings is a better option than a platoon of Earl Boykins and Keyon Dooling. But he can’t heal John Salmons’ back and hip, Drew Gooden’s foot, or Andrew Bogut’s virus, and Jennings will take a few games to get up to normal playing speed in gradually increasing minutes.

There’s much more that needs to be done to bring the Milwaukee Bucks back to relevance as a potential first round dark horse in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but the return of a dynamic playmaker like Brandon Jennings is a start. It’s just not the only piece of the puzzle missing.

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