Rolling Milwaukee Bucks Must Keep Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis Together

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 22, 2012

The precautions about the Milwaukee Bucks backcourt pairing of 6'3" Monta Ellis and 6'1" Brandon Jennings are as legitimate as they are ludicrous.

Trust me, it makes sense.

An Ellis-Jennings duo may appear better suited for an offensive coach like Don Nelson than the defensive-minded Scott Skiles. But the reality is that this trio hasn't just found a way to coexist, they've actually found some early-season success.

Their 6-4 record is tied for third place in a deep Eastern Conference. It also includes road wins against playoff staples Boston and Philadelphia, along with a home victory over Indiana (the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference just one season ago).

Milwaukee's strong start can be directly linked to the play of Ellis and Jennings. The pair has combined for 37.1 points, 13.1 assists and 4.6 steals per game.

The  offensive prowess of the backcourt mates has been the perfect complement to the defensive acumen of Skiles' front line. This two-way balance has Milwaukee fans hoping for more than just a punched playoff ticket.

It's also the reason that Milwaukee has to find a way to keep these two potential free agents with the franchise beyond the 2012-13 season. Jennings is set to become a restricted free agent after Milwaukee was unable to extend his rookie contract, while Ellis' current deal includes an $11 million option for next season.

According to, Milwaukee will free up over $18 million with the expiring contracts of Beno Udrih, Samuel Dalembert and Mike Dunleavy. So money shouldn't be an issue.

It will likely come down to whether or not the Bucks front office thinks that this diminutive backcourt can find sustained success. With more teams shunning traditional backcourts for smaller, quicker pairings, the Bucks are in the best position to be at the cutting edge of the league's latest trend.

Milwaukee has accepted that this vertically challenged duo will face some rough defensive assignments, according to's Jim Owczarski. But they also understand the headaches that Jennings and Ellis will give opposing defenders.

Both are proven dynamic scorers. They have the ability to attack their defenders off the dribble or bury perimeter jumpers if given too much cushion.

They're also far more willing passers than they're given credit for. Both have been considered offensive black holes, but that's an oversimplified reaction to studying more box scores than game films. They've both been their teams' best offensive players, so coaches have called their numbers and teammates have deferred to their talents.

Defensively, both use their quickness to attack loose dribbles or lazy passes. And their natural gambling instincts are given leeway in Skiles' system. When Ellis or Jennings guess wrong, the Bucks have long rim-protecting presences behind them.

The NBA has been and continues to be a star-driven league. Milwaukee has two on their roster for the first time since Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson occupied the Bradley Center locker rooms.

If the Bucks play their financial cards right, they'll keep those two stars well beyond the 2012-13 season.

All statistics used in this article are accurate as of 11/22/2012.