Brandon Jennings and the Leftorium

If you’d been doubting it, the above video gives us proof: Brandon Jennings is pretty athletic. Just two years removed from high school, I’m willing to bet that Jennings has spent the majority of his basketball playing life jumping over the competition around the rim and laying it in with little to no bother from opponents. Naturally, this may have prevented Jennings from actually getting better at the rim in his pre-pro career.

Things certainly haven’t been easy at the rim for Jennings this season.

Jennings has met defenders that are bigger and stronger on virtually ever trip into the paint on his path to the rim. When he has gone up, he’s no longer rising over those defenders for unabated attempts on his lay ins. It’s been well chronicled that Jennings hasn’t shot a very high percentage at the rim this season. He shot just 42.7% at the rim in the regular season (HoopData.com), third lowest among regulars in the NBA.

One of the reasons for his low percentage was prominently on display in Tuesday’s game, specifically on two possessions in the second quarter.

The first came on one of Milwaukee’s rare fast break opportunities. After a missed shot by Josh Smith, Jennings was just shy of half court when Carlos Delfino fired him an outlet pass. Jamal Crawford just missed on a steal attempt and it was a hard charging Jennings on his way towards a getting back Joe Johnson. From just outside the paint on the right side, Jennings launched into the air towards the front right area of the rim. The whole situation screamed for Jennings to go with his right hand for two reasons.

  1. It would have been an easier shot
  2. It would have shielded the ball from Johnson and forced him to come across Jennings if he was going to go for it.

In actuality, Jennings went up with his left and got blocked. Could they have called a foul? Maybe, but it wasn’t overtly obvious like it may have been had Jennings got his body into Johnson like he could have had he used his right hand.

Roughly a minute later, Jennings found himself at the top of the key with Marvin Williams on him. He made a dribble move and got by Williams to the hoop. Again, on the right side of the hoop Jennings went up with his left hand, only to have Williams toss it off the back board.

These are just two examples that illustrate a larger problem Coach Scott Skiles has brought up before. Teams are often forcing Jennings right as the season has gone on and honing in on his left hand. He’s a left handed player and a serious one. Not often this year has Jennings finished strong with his right hand at the rim. I envision Jennings shops at Ned Flanders left hand store from The Simpsons. I wonder what sort of can opener Jennings uses? Perhaps the Bucks will put him on a strict right handed only diet this off-season.

A picture says a thousand words ... or in this case, zero words.
A picture says a thousand words ... or in this case, zero words.

I’m not contesting that this is Jennings only problem inside, he’s getting tossed on either side of the rim and missing tons of floaters, but it may help to explain why Jennings gets so few calls. In watching John Salmons, you’ll often notice him cradling the ball and making contact with a defender before exposing the ball. After he exposes it, he’ll still be holding it away from the defender. By doing this, he keeps a defender from getting an easy block, even if he doesn’t get a foul call. That’s the work of a seasoned veteran.

His whole career, Jennings has been able to get away with using his left all the time, the competition just wasn’t good enough to force him to do otherwise. The best competition in the world will change that though. This is something Jennings will probably get better at, perhaps even as soon as next season. But against a team with the shot-blockers and back court size that Atlanta has, it doesn’t predict a very strong series from Jennings unless he’s hitting his outside shots.

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I watch the Milwaukee Bucks often and write about what I see…