After a disappointing 105-100 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings made it clear that he’s willing to do whatever it takes the rest of the season for the Bucks to win.
“From here on out, I’m just gonna be aggressive,” Jennings said. “If I gotta take 20, 30 shots to win a game, that’s just what I’m gonna do. I need to be more consistent as far as being aggressive and competing more.”
Bucks fans will likely be quick to let people know that above quote sounds as scary as it does heroic. That’s kind of a perfect way to describe The Brandon Jennings/Monta Ellis led Milwaukee Bucks though, isn’t it?
Identity is always a hot buzzword in the NBA. I think I read something like 20 different tweets this past weekend about the Los Angeles Lakers’ identity. From what I can grasp, it’s their lack of one that’s hurting them. They don’t know if they’re a pick and roll team, a Seven Seconds or Less team, Kobe’s team or Dwight’s team. That’s why they’re a mess, I guess.
But as someone who watches a ton of Milwaukee Bucks basketball, I can assure you that having an identity is not exactly a surefire way to turn things around.
Milwaukee has a strong identity. The Bucks are a good defensive team that likes to force turnovers and push the pace of the game as often as possible, while being sure to take care of the ball and keep it moving on offense.
The part about keeping the ball moving on offense is really more just the Bucks at their best. Ultimately, regardless of how much the ball is moving, the Bucks come down to Jennings and Ellis on offense. And that combo of scary heroes has delivered everything basketball fans should have expected.
Breakdown of Bucks Record in Jennings and Ellis Specific Context
In games where both Jennings and Ellis shoot 40% or better: 10-3
In games where both Jennings and Ellis shoot less than 40%: 1-11
Through 49 games, Jennings and Ellis have 13 times both shot better than 40% and 12 times both shot worse than 40%. It’s almost poetic how unpredictably predictable they are. You never know when they’ll both be on or both be off, but they’ve found a way to balance it all out.
That “you never know” aspect of Jennings and Ellis has consumed the entire Bucks team this season. Milwaukee is as capable of coming back from a large deficit as they are blowing one themselves. No lead is safe and no hole too deep to dig out of.
That unpredictability has given Milwaukee wins over the Bulls, Pacers, Heat, Nets and losses to the Wizards, Pistons and Bobcats.
The Bucks have made changes throughout the season seemingly in an attempt to maintain some sort of the consistency that would be required for them to be more than the team that we’ve seen this season. Scott Skiles and the organization parted ways. Numerous players have rotated in and out around Jennings and Ellis in the starting lineup. But thus far, nothing’s been able to keep these Bucks on the right track for more than small stretches.
They continue to remain unpredictable. It’s almost as if they’re two players who will likely be the same players regardless of system, coach or teammates.
Most of us watched the Bucks come into this season with two quasi-star players looking for contract extensions, a number of other expiring deals, a few young players looking to carve out roles in the NBA and a front office uncertain of its own future and saw something of an experiment season. This would be the year the Bucks would decide their future.
The ball has quite literally been in the hands of Jennings and Ellis from day one this year. If they could grow as players, become better defenders and more efficient, there was a very real possibility that they’d be a big part of the Bucks going forward.
But they haven’t grown much. They’re both still inefficient and they’ve taken the Bucks offense down with them. The biggest issue with both Jennings and Ellis may be that they truly think they’re doing what’s right for the team when they shoot because they have so much confidence in themselves. It takes a lot of confidence to talk about shooting 30 times a game when you’re shooting exactly 40% as Jennings is. Kudos to him for his unwavering faith in himself. That faith is surely a big part of what’s gotten him as far as he has.
But organizations typically prefer to throw their confidence behind players whose certainties can rest on something other than blind faith. Right now, it has to be pretty hard for the Bucks to be all that certain about either Jennings or Ellis on a nightly basis, regardless of how much those two believe in themselves
So the Bucks have some decisions to make with the trade deadline approaching. What will this team look like next season? What will it look like for the rest of this one?
Appropriately enough for this team, we have no idea.
As if it could be any other way this season.