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Posts Tagged ‘Brandon Jennings’

Value seems like the buzzword of the hour. The focus on ascribing some definitive number to every part of a team’s construction and performance has become measurable, visible in the databases filled with box scores and batted-ball spray charts. Suddenly even casual sports fans have trouble navigating the culture of their favorite teams without encountering some formulation of acronyms stuck to the front of a “-metric” suffix. Some (though perhaps fewer and fewer) lament the passing of days where a complete understanding of sports required no knowledge of regression analysis. While public opinion might not always follow along with willful enthusiasm, remember that the original motivation behind “advanced metrics” was to achieve a deeper understanding of what constituted success. Doing so proved an exceptional method of winning, a common goal for both the front-office brains and the fans who watched unorthodox methodology deliver the same result they always hoped for. Winning, after all, was the ultimate goal for everyone involved, and this value-based system was simply the latest tool.

The numbers sum up everything. They don’t value rough-and-tumble defensive stoppers, they value low defensive ratings. They don’t value 30-point scorers (er, kinda), they value 16 points on 10 shots. Sure, that’s overstating and oversimplifying things too much, but there’s a reason efficiency gets all the face-time these days. Efficiency gets results on the cheap. Efficiency doesn’t blow leads or hog the ball. It’s not sexy, but it gets the job done. Efficiency gives owners what they want: value.

One could say, then, that value is just little bits of winning. We grant that a player is valuable because the things he does help his team by a (reasonably) determinable amount. The only reason the numbers want Kevin Love to grab a rebound is because it has some specific value which, accumulated in high enough numbers, will help earn his team a win. It’s a mildly harsh reality, reducing the actions we see to parts of a sum, but it’s one that more and more people are warming to, myself included. I’m happy to grant that per-possession statistics are far more valuable than their per-game counterparts, or that protecting scoring opportunities is exceedingly important in winning basketball games. I’ll happily agree with anyone who says that maximizing the value of those shot attempts is an important factor in winning a basketball game, and that high-volume shooters might actually be deviously undermining their team’s success.

Given all that, it would appear I have managed to convince myself that I am kidding myself when it comes to Brandon Jennings. When Jennings fell just shy of a triple-double in his first career game, it jolted me out of my chair. When he dropped 55 points on the Warriors two weeks later, it sold me. It sold me so well that even as Jennings fell back to Earth over the next few months, I remained stoutly convinced that he was the future of professional basketball where I was concerned. Following that season, I started writing this site under a name inspired by his performance, even as doubts over whether it was all a cruel joke grew in my mind.

If you’re looking for an understatement, let me say that Brandon Jennings has experienced a drop-off since those torrid first weeks of his rookie season, to the point where there are times when the Milwaukee Bucks win in spite of him, rather than thanks to him. As that first season rolled along, it pained me to see criticisms of the team, identifying the frequent nights when Jennings would “shoot Milwaukee out of the game.” Why was I so affected by such scorn? After all, the number-disciple in me sided with the critics. I had no vested interest in Jennings outside his role as the starting point guard for my favorite team. I had no affiliation with the team beyond  that of a particularly interested fan, but I hated that every shot taken by Jennings would invariably lead to some shot taken at him. Yet through it all, my enthusiasm for his play never waned. It was cognitive dissonance wearing a #3 jersey. Screw value, I thought. Efficiency be damned, this kid is fun.

Is that irresponsible? Probably. Professional basketball is a business, where personal attachments only count for as long as they’re convenient. If Tim Duncan wasn’t the greatest power forward who ever lived, he probably wouldn’t have stayed in San Antonio his entire career. Draft picks staying with the same team for a full career isn’t exactly the norm. Is Jennings good enough to warrant the title of “Franchise Point Guard” in Milwaukee? That’s not a decision to be left up to me. But I can attest that Bucks basketball hasn’t been the same since Brandon Jennings joined the squad. He brought with him the most exciting performance and season in years. He has a dramatic flair and unquenchable attitude. Despite his undeniable struggles, when he has the ball in his hands, I always feel like something really, really cool could happen. Don’t tell me there isn’t value in that.

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15/2/10

Not a date formatted Germany-style, but Brandon Jennings’ stat line from tonight’s opening game in New Orleans. After averaging just over 6 assists a game last year, Jennings made an obvious effort to get his teammates involved tonight. He still took 14 shots, but at least 2 of those misses that I counted were desperation shots at the end of broken plays. He was also 2/3 at the rim and 2/6 from three, rounding out a semi-respectable 47.6 TS%. Realistically, what can we glean about Jennings’ shot after one game? Not much.

What did impress me about Jennings’ game was how his court vision stood up throughout Milwaukee’s possessions. Brandon assisted on six Milwaukee 3-pointers, including at least one Carlos Delfino shot from the corner where Jennings hit him off a baseline cut from under the basket. Just a flat-out pretty play. He also managed to save a ball from going out under the hoop and got it in to Andrew Bogut under the basket for an easy two.

Milwaukee has an interesting conundrum on his hands thanks to his fantastic quickness. There were obvious times where he wanted to push the ball off long rebounds or turnovers, but this Bucks team isn’t exactly swimming in athletes to run a break with him. As a result, Jennings periodically found himself surrounded by opponents while the rest of his squad chugged down the floor to meet him. At least twice Jennings took advantage of the relative chaos as players found their defensive assignments and got to their positions. If I remember correctly, he hit Carlos Delfino driving the lane once, and did…something else good.

Point is, I was too engrossed in the first real Bucks game since last spring to take notes of key plays. More important point is: Brandon Jennings is improving. Rapidly. That bodes well for everyone.

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OMG SHOES.

Brandon Jennings made some interesting comments regarding his “snub” from US National Team tryouts. Apparently the Global Shoe Conspiracy that is Nike conspired to keep him and his Under Armour kicks out of the spotlight at the World Championships.

I’m not saying it’s a Nike thing, but Nike is kind of running a lot of things right now. To have a guy like myself on the USA team that’s flashy and really outgoing, you don’t want Under Armour to get all that [publicity].

Brandon, why!?! You were having such a great summer. You’ve given us a multitude of highlight reels with some of the other young stars in the NBA, some clever commentary on the rise of the superteam, and an image to associate with Lady Gaga that might actually be stranger than Gaga herself.

But this shoe thing has crossed the line. Even if the fashion industry is responsible for every major assassination in history, that’s not what kept you off Team USA. It was this.

I’m just telling you how it is.

We know Brandon, and we’re all still really happy the franchise is in your hands. But please, go work on your shot. I don’t care what shoes you wear.

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Brandon Jennings led a team of current NBA players mixed with NBA hopefuls at the Nike Real Run in L.A. It seems like we’ve grown accustomed to seeing Jennings in highlight-reels, and he looks pretty awesome in this one. It’s tough to see if the work he put in this summer has had any drastic effect on his play when all we’re seeing is the coolest alley-oops, breakaways, and no-look passes, but the mere fact that he’s been showing up so frequently in basketball-related events is a great sign. Being handed the keys to an NBA team before you can legally drink a beer is a lot to deal with, but Brandon has given every indication he can handle the pressure and still maintain that somewhat comical energy that keeps a kid sane.  Only two more months!

(h/t DIME)

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Ummm…awesome.

Got this from Twitter via @dimemag. I don’t think a backcourt featuring these two guys would be particularly great, but who cares? This is sweet.

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After I put together my original post in this series, focusing on the March 20th game in Denver, it was suggested that the previous night may have been an even better game – a 114-108 win over the Sacramento Kings in double-overtime. I’m hesitant to agree for two reasons: First, Denver was a much better team than Sacramento last year. Tyreke Evans was fantastic last season, but he was the Kings’ best player, while Denver has a top-15 player overall and a top-10 point guard. Second, like I mentioned, there were just so many superficial things working against Milwaukee in Denver.

Still, this one was pretty sweet. From the mouth of Jennings: “Right now, it’s not about me, it’s about my teammates.” Fine sentiment from a rookie PG, but let’s be honest: getting revenge on Evans probably felt really good. Back on December 19th, ‘Reke hit a game-winner against the Bucks that was still stinging in Bucks fans. This time, instead of finishing the game with a twisting layup to steal a road win, Evans was putting his teeth back in place.

Okay, I already feel bad for writing that. Truth is, Tyreke was fun enough to watch last season that if I could, I might go back in time to warn him of the Deadly Flying Turkish Elbow Assassin. Maybe. On that note, I would definitely…

  1. Place a bean-bag chair underneath Bogut as he crashes to the floor during the Phoenix game. Hell, I think there are a decent number of Atlanta fans who would do the same if they saw his fall.
  2. Do something to get Jennings one more rebound and assist in his debut, because, come on, a triple-double in his debut!? Totally worth obliterating the space-time continuum.
  3. Move Bogut 3 centimeters to his left on that ridiculous Kobe Bryant blocking call. It should have been a charge anyway, but I’ll just go ahead and make sure he’s in position down to the micron. I might also punch the ref who made the call in the face.

But back to the Sacramento game. Jennings was the undisputed star of this one, and maybe we should have seen it coming. After some serious struggles in February and early March, Jennings entered this game averaging 18/3.6/5.8 in his previous 5 games. His shooting was better, especially from range, having made 13 3s in those games. Couple that with a below-average defensive Kings team and the table was set for a big night from Mr. 55.

However, this contest played out very differently than did the Denver game. Holding a one-point lead at the half, the Bucks were seriously outplayed in the 3rd quarter, when they let Sacramento shoot 57%. The Kings went on runs of 7-2 and 11-1, the latter closing out the period after Jennings, Delfino, and Mbah a Moute were yanked.

The fourth quarter was just devastating for the Kings, though, while the Bucks executed their game beautifully. Of the Bucks’ 12 made shots in the quarter, 8 were assisted, including 4 of the 5 made 3s. Milwaukee combined this excellent ball movement with solid defensive rebounding, allowing Sacramento a 23.1 ORR in the 4th, well below their 27.8 season ORR; an impressive feat, considering Sacramento was the 6th best offensive rebounding team in the league last year. These two factors allowed the Bucks to fight back and tie the game on Ersan’s just-plain-jump-out-of-your-seat-awesome three-pointer.

The first overtime was really uneventful. Bogut did steal the ball from Beno Udrih once, which was funny.

I could take a closer look at the second overtime, but there just isn’t that much to say. Spencer Hawes was completely overpowered by Bogut and Udrih mustered the Kings only 4 points. In reality, this game should have been over in the first overtime but the Bucks’ shots weren’t falling.

So went the final result, a 6-point victory over a then-23-win team. Of course there were still problems, most notably in the free-throw department. Again. Evans earned 10 free throws himself, while the Bucks shot 23 and converted only 14 (Bogut went 1-6. Unfortunately, I think we need to accept that he’s just never going to be a very good foul shooter).

What do we take away from this one? Well, it always helps when November Jennings stuffs February Jennings in the luggage compartment of the plane on the way to the game and lights up the arena. It helps when 3 players have 20+ points and two have 10+ rebounds. As far as the more analytical factors go, Milwaukee managed to hold down Sacramento’s ORR, shoot well from 3-point range, and…score more points. Sometimes it’s just as easy as having your hot-shot rookie go nuts.

Note: I usually have a Google Chrome window open with about 17 tabs while writing these things. I should note that I make frequent use of Popcorn Machine’s Game Flows and Hoopdata’s Advanced Box Scores, along with other reference sites.

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