New York Knicks vs. Milwaukee Bucks: Sizing Up Brandon Jennings and Jeremy Lin
Jennings is in his third NBA season and having the best year of his short career. He has carried the Bucks in the absence of Andrew Bogut and established himself as one of the league's best scorers.
Lin is technically playing through his sophomore season, but has only seen meaningful action over the past month. He has surprised everyone with his athleticism and become a worldwide sensation overnight.
As New York looks to exact revenge on a Milwaukee team that embarrassed them at home back in January, the Lin-Jennings matchup will be the most scrutinized of any on the court.
Jennings torched New York for 36 points the first time around, so Lin's ability to rival his performance will play a vital factor in determining the outcome of the game.
Edge: Brandon Jennings
Jennings is averaging 18.7 points per game this season and shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc.
He has also taken great strides in his shot selection. More often than not, he opts for higher-percentage looks, as opposed to forcing action that's just not there.
Jeremy Lin is putting up 14.8 points per contest on nearly 47 percent shooting from the field. He has been able to drive into the paint with ease, which has created easy shot opportunities. His ability to draw contact has also allowed him to become a major and-one threat.
Jennings can also take the ball to the rim, but is at his best from the perimeter. Despite his size, he needs very little room to get off a shot and has unmeasurable range.
Lin has improved his outside shooting, but at under 33 percent from deep, is significantly less effective than Jennings on the perimeter.
When the Knicks cut-off Jennings' path to the basket, he has his forte to fall back on. When the Bucks clog the paint, though, Lin will be forced to defer elsewhere.
Edge: Jeremy Lin
Lin has more weapons to defer to than Brandon Jennings, but the manner is which he does it gives him the edge.
Jennings and Lin average 5.5 and 6 assists, respectively, but the numbers don't tell the entire story.
Lin keeps both his head up and his dribble alive, two key aspects of a point guard's game. Jennings is a superb passer, but kills his dribble too early in possessions, resulting in missed opportunities.
The Knicks phenomenon also takes the ball into the paint more often, allowing for drive-and-kick sequences. Jennings simply doesn't breach the low post as much, preferring to create for his teammates from the perimeter.
Jennings is also a shoot-first point guard, a role that Lin is better suited for, yet refuses to embrace. His first instincts, especially alongside a star-studded cast like the one New York boasts, are to put the ball in someone else's hands.
And as previously noted, the additional offensive weapons don't hurt either.
Edge: Brandon Jennings
As if this were even a contest.
Oh wait, it is.
Jeremy Lin actually has a better assist-to-turnover ratio than Jennings (1.74 to 2.40), but this is largely due to the discrepancies in playing time.
Jennings has turned the ball over six or more times only once this season, Lin, in 15 fewer games mind you, has reached such a mark seven times.
The Knicks have placed a large burden upon the inexperienced Lin's shoulders, and while he has performed admirably, he attempts to do too much at times. Jennings makes better decisions and is familiar with the tenacity that is NBA defense.
Jennings is also more adept at ball-handling in general. He has a nasty crossover and can attack the basket from all angles. Lin, on the other hand, struggles to go left, often losing the ball when he does.
Experience prevails here.
Neither Jeremy Lin or Brandon Jennings are exceptionally good defenders.
Jennings is incredibly quick and able to make sharp lateral movements, but he becomes entranced with reaching in for steals. He doesn't find himself in foul trouble too often, but takes an unnecessary number of risks that result in him getting beat off the dribble.
Lin is more calculated in the way he approaches defense. He's able to force turnovers, but his footwork is sloppy. He easily gets tripped up and is forced to foul as a result.
Both players swipe 1.5 steals per game, and at times, look like they have the necessary tools to evolve into a lock-down defender.
Other times, though? They look lost and border on a defensive liability.
Edge: Brandon Jennings
John Wall commands most of the attention with regards to speed, but Brandon Jennings' quickness rivals his.
Jennings can move up and down the floor with the utmost of ease. On the rare occasion he decides to take the ball inside, he can blow by almost anyone in the league.
Jeremy Lin has proved to be more agile than most believed, but he simply doesn't move the way Jennings does. He relies more on direction than speed.
Wall may be the quickest player in the NBA, but Jennings isn't far behind.
Edge: Jeremy Lin
Lin hits the floor almost every time he draws contact—and sometimes even when he doesn't—yet he always jumps right back up.
Brandon Jennings, though, doesn't enter the painted area as much as Lin, and isn't usually found bouncing off of opposing defenders.
Jennings' size and strength have been of concern since he entered the league in 2009. Thus far, he has managed to adapt his game so he can still produce, but there is no denying he could benefit from added muscle.
Lin is more than 30 pounds heavier than Jennings and significantly more defined. His build allows him to attack the paint with reckless abandon on a consistent basis.
Jennings does not have that same luxury.
Jeremy Lin hits the floor far more often than Brandon Jennings, but he hasn't been taken that kind of a beating on a consistent basis. So, while he has avoided injury, he has also seen limited playing time up until now.
Jennings suffered a broken foot last season, but it has not hindered his abilities at all this year. His durability presents no immediate cause for concern.
Both athletes are young and routinely play 35-plus minutes per game. At this early stage of their careers, health is not an issue for either player.
Jeremy Lin has reached a level of leadership that no one could have imagined. His ability to decide who gets the ball, and when, far exceeds that of most second-year point guards.
Even with Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire on the floor, he doesn't cave under the burden of balancing touches. Most notably, his game-winner against the Toronto Raptors came with Stoudemire on the floor. Instead of running a play for him, Lin took the shot himself.
That being said, Brandon Jennings' experience trumps Lin's. He hasn't always been a great leader, but has improved by leaps and bounds this season.
Jennings has distributed the ball much better this season. He has a better idea of when to defer and when to take it himself.
Lin has surpassed expectations, but Jennings has been leading for longer, making it too close to call.
Overall Edge: Brandon Jennings
While both Jeremy Lin and Jennings are still honing their skills, Jennings is the more established of the two.
Lin has been riding cloud nine for about a month, but Jennings has put up solid numbers for almost three years. He has gone up against the league's best numerous times, while Lin is only beginning to get a taste of above-average talent.
The two are evenly matched in terms of defense and the intangibles they bring to the table, but Jennings has the clear edge on offense.
Jennings will not tantalize the Knicks' point man to the same degree Rajon Rondo did, but he is the next stop in Lin's path to initiation.