If you’ve never been to Hoopdata.com, then you’re missing out on a lot of great basketball information. Does it seem like your team gives up a lot of shots at the rim? Go to Hoopdata and they’ll verify your suspicions. Think you’re team sucks at shooting mid-range jumpers? Hoopdata can tell you whether or not they do. Think your scrappy power forward draws a lot of charges? Hoopdata tracks that too.
Occasionally they’ll have some interesting charts and graphs about things too. One of these recent “things” was the at rim field goal percentages of Brandon Jennings and Tyreke Evans. In short, Jennings had a great start but has tailed off considerably, whereas Evans has been climbing and performing very well all year. If I told you Tyreke Evans was doing a much better job finishing at the rim than Brandon Jennings coming into the year, you probably would have said, “Well duh, he’s got five inches and fifty pounds on him,” and that would have made sense to us both.
So it’s no surprise to me that Evans is doing such a good job at the rim while Jennings has struggled. However, I’ve maintained that it’s important for Jennings to continue to attack the rim and be aggressive despite his misses for a couple reasons. One, he’ll probably get better at finishing as his career goes on and it’s important to develop good habits as a young player. He’s bound to add some more muscle, so that should help him absorb contact. On top of that, as he grows as a player, he should figure out how to better shield the ball from shot-blockers and draw more fouls. That’s all down the road stuff though. In the meantime it’s still benefiting the Bucks when Jennings is going to the rack, poor shooting percentage be damned.
Through his last six games, Jennings is just 11-26 at the rim, just 42.3 percent, but when we look behind the numbers things actually look a lot better. On seven of those attempts, the Bucks secured the offensive rebound and scored a basket, typically a tip shot or layup. One time the Bucks had to take it back out, but that just resulted in a driving basket by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (he grabbed the initial rebound as well). So add those seven baskets off the rebounds to Jennings 11-26 and suddenly we have 26 attempts at the rim resulting in 18 makes and 69.2 percent shooting. That’s not bad.
I’m sure Jennings is not alone in his ability to draw defenders and open up easy opportunities for teammates when he attacks the rim, but for this team it’s especially important. The Bucks are a very good offensive rebounding squad (eighth in the league) and a very bad offensive team. Any opportunities the Bucks have for easy shots at the rim have to be exploited. Not many Bucks excel at creating their own shot or getting good looks at the rim, so the more Jennings heads to the rack, whether he makes it or misses it, the better the Bucks are sure to fare when it comes to actual scoring. His shooting percentage may not pick up for a while, but as long as the Bucks are getting better looks because of his shots everything will take care of itself.