Brandon Jennings hit the modest individual shooting goal he laid out for himself before the 2011-12 season.
In fact, were it not for a miserable month of February that seemed to be the perfect storm of attitude and inaccuracy, Jennings would have blown past the 40% shooting mark with ease. After shooting better than 44% in January, Jennings slumped to an all-too-familiar 33.6% accuracy mark in February. He rebounded nicely though, making better than 43% of his shots over the final two months of the season while averaging better than 20 points per game.
He kept his turnovers down yet again. In three seasons, Jennings has a turnover percentage (estimate of turnovers per 100 possessions) of just 12%. No other regular starting point guard in the league that’s started as many games as Jennings has a better turnover percentage since he’s entered. Guys like Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen and Joe Johnson are the ones he’s most comparable with when it comes to turnovers.
So he’s getting better with his shot selection, or at least his ability to make shots, and he isn’t turning the ball over. He’s improving every season and looked like a natural fit for Milwaukee’s faster offense late last season. There are verifiable reasons to be hopeful that Jennings will take another step forward next season.
And that’s where things get tricky.
Another step forward would be great, but it probably wouldn’t be a great step forward. It’s hard to believe that Jennings could suddenly make the leap required to get on the level of an obvious superstar like a Derrick Rose or Steve Nash. He seems to lack whatever so many great point guards before him have had as a passer and he definitely doesn’t have the supreme athleticism some of the league’s best guards have.
The timing here is what makes things really sticky. Jennings will be eligible for a contract extension on July 1. If he and the Bucks can’t reach an agreement, he’ll be a restricted free agent after next season. The Bucks will very soon be faced with a tough decision regarding the point guard that’s become the face of their franchise.
There are no shortage of questions that will hang over that decision.
- How much is Jennings worth?
It’s hard to imagine Jennings as a max player right now, but if he scores better than 20 points per game next season and does so more efficiently? James Harden went to work destroying the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs a week ago and after the game reporters were asking his teammates if he was worthy.
If you’re Brandon Jennings and you hear that James Harden is generating max money talk, wouldn’t dollar signs be dancing through your mind? Harden is definitely better than Jennings right now, but if Jennings keeps getting better he’s likely to put himself on that sort of level. Whether or not the market dictates that he be on that level is another question, but free agency has a habit of inflating the price of a contract rather than deflating it.
- Is it ever a good idea to give up on a young point guard?
The Grizzlies were mercilessly mocked when they gave a then 23-year-old Mike Conley a five year, $45 million extension in late 2010. But that deal didn’t look too bad as Conley battled with Chris Paul in the first round over the past two weeks. Young point guards have a habit of getting better as they go along. How much better is what’s difficult to predict.
- Remember how bad things turned out after the Michael Redd deal?
Paying a very good player superstar money can scar a team for years. Redd was all the Bucks really had in 2003. He was the star and the Bucks decided they’d pay him like he was one of the league’s stars. It was a risky move and it ended up helping keep the Bucks firmly in the middle of the pack for years to come. Redd’s contract alone didn’t ruin the Bucks for the rest of his tenure, but it came to symbolize all of the mistakes they kept making. Do the Bucks want to get stuck overvaluing their own player again?
John Hammond was asked about Jennings’ contract situation at his end of the season press conference.
“It’s something that we’ll look at and we’ll explore,” he said. “It’s going to have to be a little bit of a two-way street, so to speak. Something that is important to them and important to us. I think that is. But, it’s not something that we have to do. And the one thing that we don’t want to do… And we talked about this. We’ve talked about this for the last couple of years, is not put ourselves in a position where we have to do things. If we have to do things, I think we’re negotiating and working out of a position of weakness.”
Soon enough though, the Bucks will have to make a decision, whether it’s to re-sign, trade or let Jennings walk away.
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Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com.