To start, the Bucks just went through a mediocre season that saw head coach Scott Skiles fired after 32 games, and assistant Jim Boylan taking over for the second half. They won only 38 games, backed into the playoffs as an 8th seed, and got swept by eventual NBA Champions the Miami Heat.
Jennings played the 2nd most minutes behind guard Monta Ellis, who has departed for the Dallas Mavericks, and combined with him to drag the Bucks offense into the lower third of the league with a 23rd ranking, per Synergy Sports. The main issue was with his extremely low field goal percentage. At just under 40% (.399), Jennings’ poor shot selection was the main reason he was so inefficient. While the team itself had trouble scoring, and the rationale was that Jennings had to take shots for any hope to score, many of these ill advised attempts were more detrimental to the team than another, less offensively talented player taking a shot.
A bright spot for Jennings was his 3 point shooting. And by bright spot, we mean he was a hair above average – in the 54th percentile for all NBA players. With a minimum of 82 three point attempts, Jennings ranked 112th out of 179. Combine that with the fact he took less than 18% of his jump shots from inside 17″, and overall only took 26% of his shots from inside 5 feet (low for a point guard) and it’s clear that he’s just not an effective shoot first point guard. It gets worse when you look at his FG% from inside 5 feet: 46.4%. For comparison of that distance, Chris Paul (64%), Tony Parker (64.2%), and even Luke Ridnour (54%) were much better.
While defending the point guard position is the most difficult task in the NBA today, by any standard, Jennings is mediocre. While Synergy’s defensive rankings can be a bit dubious, it is worth noting that his 31st percentile is quite low and indicative of his poor weakside spacing and undisciplined on ball defense. He reaches in quite often, attempting steals that pro point guards simply won’t give up. He gambles for passes, leaving him out of position more often than not, and his size simply makes him relatively ineffective on close outs to shooters.
There is an argument that Brandon Jennings does not want anyone to offer him a contract, so he can wait til next summer and become an unrestricted free agent. The Bucks also said they would match any offer from another team. However, the Bucks also desperately tried to woo Jeff Teague, who is also a restricted free agent. The Hawks matched the Bucks offer of $32 million for 4 years, but this speaks volumes to how the Bucks feel about Brandon Jennings and his value. Rather than sign him to an extension, they simply let the pre assigned $4.5 million qualifying offer sit on the table to fester, wondering if anyone would even try to offer him more. The Bucks clearly think Jennings isn’t worth $8 million per year, and might not even mind a pouting Jennings all year, since that increases their chances for Andrew Wiggins in next year’s draft.
If Jennings’ agent has told him to take the qualifying offer, sit tight, then wait to become a free agent next summer, this could go down as a colossal miscalculation at worst – and at best really bad career advice. Just take a peek at who will be either a restricted or unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2014: Mario Chalmers, Kemba Walker, Eric Bledsoe, Ramon Sessions, Jerryd Bayless, Kirk Hinrich, Isaiah Thomas, Luke Ridnour, Aaron Brooks, Jerryd Bayless, Greivis Vasquez, Darren Collison, Steve Blake, Eric Maynor, Jameer Nelson, Evan Turner, and Kyle Lowry. Not to mention huge names like LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Tony Parker, Paul George, Zach Randolph, DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, and John Wall.
The money could dry up very fast once these players get signed by teams – especially as the new CBA’s luxury tax penalties become increasingly severe. At this point, Brandon Jennings’ one hope is that he changes his game radically, getting more shots at the rim, makes many more of them, facilitates in the offense better (i.e. more assists), and becomes more disciplined on defense. This is a tall order, and an interesting case. As the landscape of the new CBA becomes clearer, one consequence is that shoot first point guards who are inefficient and play poor defense get squeezed out of the league.