Can a Brandon Jennings-Monta Ellis Backcourt Work Long-Term?
This backcourt is doomed, unless I'm missing something. And unless I'm missing something, this backcourt is doomed to be frequently missing.
In the wake of the Milwaukee Bucks-Golden State Warriors deal that sent Monta Ellis to the Midwest, many reflexively touted the deal in Milwaukee's favor. This made sense, considering the trade partner. Since when do the Warriors win a trade? It's even debatable as to whether they won the Pacers trade that vaulted Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington into the "We Believe" whirlwind. Mike Dunleavy's balling these days, I swear.
My issue with the Ellis-Bogut trade is that it duplicates Golden State's problem, while simultaneously exacerbating said problem. Stephen Curry and Ellis did not fit together, it was a constant source of concern and frustration. Both wanted to play on the ball, and both weren't tall enough to guard players at the 2-spot.
So now Milwaukee has replaced Curry with a smaller, skinnier player who happens to shoot much worse. I'm not completely against Brandon Jennings or the idea of Brandon Jennings improving. But if you believe in Jennings getting better, these are probably not optimal conditions.
If you believe in Ellis' ability to help an offense, this situation is also likely of little help to him. Ellis was at his most efficient when playing off the ball with Baron Davis. In this dynamic, Ellis was permitted to defend opposing point guards as the larger Baron took on 2-guards.
Offensively, the combination worked wonderfully because Davis could penetrate and dish to Ellis off the ball. With his straight-line speed, Ellis is deadly when given a running head start. While Jennings has Baron's speed, he lacks Davis' court vision. Ellis is nearly as inclined to create for BJ as Jennings is to create for Ellis.
Jennings is talented and has much room for improvement. The same could be said for Ellis. But with all that said, don't count on this combination to be efficient offensively.
Both players have a high points-per-game average, but they take a great deal of shots to get there. In the true shooting department (a stat that incorporates three-pointers and free throws into overall field-goal percentage) Ellis and Jennings fail to impress. Ellis had a .493 mark in his games with Milwaukee last year. Jennings tallied a .514. (He's actually .493 for his career.)
While those numbers don't sound so bad, keep in mind that TS percentage is higher than a standard field-goal percentage. The average true shooting percentage for NBA teams hovers around 53 percent. Shoot worse than that, and chances are that teammates could benefit from you ceding your chances.
It's possible that I've just watched too many Warriors games, but I expect this arrangement to end in much the same way. One of these players has to go for this Bucks roster to make sense. If it were up to me, I'd bet on Jennings. He's younger and has a track record of playing a modicum of defense. I hope, for Monta's sake, that he eventually ends up in the proper situation for a slashing, undersized 2-guard.
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