The Milwaukee Bucks play the Miami Heat tonight. Brandon Jennings could score 35 points or he could score seven points. Either way, no one would be surprised. Through four seasons, we’ve learned to be prepared for anything with Jennings, but never to expect anything. It’s too risky.
But removing that risk is what this season needs to be all about for Jennings. If he could turn himself into a guy who can consistently deliver 18 and eight, even if it comes at the expense of his 30 point games, he’ll possibly be the most highly regarded free agent point guard available this summer. And it’s that lack of consistency that has him in the situation of becoming a free agent in the first place. How could the Bucks have been expected to commit the future of their franchise to a player with very high highs and very low lows, especially when the lows come more frequently than the highs.
Through nine games this season, Jennings has scored more than 30 points once and twice had games that I refer to as “clunkers”. Those are games where he’s attempted more than 10 shots and shot less than 30%. Throughout his career, those have been a problem.
For every 30 point game he’s had in his career, he’s had two that were brutal. Such is the life of a small, streaky 3-point shooter who has traditionally struggled with his floater. Sometimes he’s hitting threes and getting his shots in the paint to fall. Very often, he’s not. But those are the things he’ll have to become more consistent with according to Scott Skiles. He spoke about Jennings slowly improving floater recently.
“He’s being smarter about when to use it,” Skiles said before Saturday’s game against the New Orleans Hornets. “He’s not going in trying to throw it over three people with their arms out. He’ll dish it off to somebody else. If you get known as a guy that’s going to penetrate and do either one, then you freeze people. And they don’t just automatically come every time.”
“They wait and they see what you’re going to do and then you can get it up. His assist numbers are his assist number right now. I’d imagine teams are saying, ‘Look, he’s a threat to score and he’s a threat to pass. And that makes him dangerous.'”
He’s made slow and steady improvements on his floater in his four years in the league. Typically, when Jennings gets into the paint, but not all the way to the rim, he’s tossing up a floater. In the table below, we can see his progression year over year on those shots in the paint but outside of the restricted area.
Given Jennings’ size and his ability to get into the paint, is the floater going to have to be a big part of his game for him to have a lot of success? Skiles thinks so.
“Yes. Yes. That and the three point shot, for sure.”
We haven’t seen the same sort of development on Jennings’ three point shot. He shot 37% as a rookie and has failed to top 33% in a season since. Over the four years he’s been in the NBA, Jennings has attempted the fifth most threes in the NBA. Among the top-15 players in three point attempts, Jennings has the lowest three point percentage. Even if Jennings turns himself into a 35 or 36% guy from deep, he turns into a pretty valuable player considering the volume he attempts the long ball at. And it sounds like Skiles doesn’t necessarily want to corral his point guards attempts, he just wants to see him make them with more regularity.
So that’s what this season is all about for Jennings. Regularity. Cash in on those floaters more often and knock down open threes at a higher clip. I make it sound so simple, when obviously these are two very difficult shots. Perhaps it’ll be just a matter of Jennings knowing when to pass when he enters the paint and which threes he could drop from his repertoire.
Through nine games, we’ve seen some of the same excitement and frustration out of Jennings that we so frequently saw over the past three seasons. It’s fun, no question. But a little bit of boring would go a long way towards securing the future of both Jennings and the Bucks this season.