When the Milwaukee Bucks traded for Monta Ellis before the trade deadline last season, many felt that pairing him alongside current Bucks guard Brandon Jennings would not work. After all, they were essentially the same player: smaller, shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later type of guards.
As you could see here, the Bucks, as well as the two guards themselves, did not agree.
For a while they were right, it did work. The Bucks started off the season winning six of their first eight games and this was in large part due to the combination of Ellis and Jennings.
In time, however, the duo started to cool off a bit, and in turn so did the Bucks. Ellis struggled in Coach Skiles' new system and often times seemed frustrated, while Jennings' shot selection was improving, but still an issue at times.
In the month of December, Ellis shot .327 percent from the field, and Jennings was not much better, shooting only .368 percent. As a result the Bucks would start to inch closer to the .500 mark and further back in the standings.
Still, as late as Dec. 27. Ellis in particular expressed optimism and felt the team was improving despite its struggles.
Skiles would be fired just five games later.
The firing put the Bucks, a team still in the hunt for the playoffs, in a state of disarray. Along with this came the increase of trade rumors involving both Ellis and Jennings. It seems the Bucks management, like many fans, believe that keeping one of the star guards and trading the other may be the best option in the long run.
As far as which one the Bucks should hold on to, all signs point to Jennings.
First of all, Jennings is only 23 years old. This is only his third season, and he is still developing as a player. While some within the Bucks organization may believe Jennings is not progressing as fast as they would like, he still has higher potential then Ellis, who is 27 and most likely set in his ways
Another big reason is the contract situation. Let's look at the chart below:
Ellis has an early termination clause for the 2013-14 season, meaning basically he is free and clear to go where he wants after this season, and by many accounts, he is set to do so.
Jennings on the other hand is a restricted free agent next year, meaning the Bucks can match any offer he receives and have the cap space to do so.
There have been some rumblings recently between Jennings and the Bucks organization over them failing to give Jennings an extension already. However, the bottom line is if the Bucks want to keep Jennings, they are in a much better position to do so than they are with Ellis.
Also, it seems that at this point in his career that Ellis is regressing
The player in this incredible video has simply not been on the court this year. Ellis, who at one point shot .531 percent from the field in the 2007-08 season, is averaging under .400 percent this year. He is also averaging a dismal .257 percent from three-point range. He used to be in the top 10 in PER, now he is 28th just among point guards at 15.7.
Some will blame Coach Skiles and his inability to use Ellis effectively; however, one cannot turn a blind eye to the disturbing trend happening to Ellis. He is averaging career lows in almost every statistic there is.
On the flip side, Jennings has gotten better this year.
As you can see above, he has improved all facets of his game. He is averaging career highs in almost every statistic.
The best thing with Jennings is his shot selection. He is only hitting .531 percent of his attempts at the rim, so this year he is shooting less at the rim by almost 1.2 attempts a game and expanding his game to other parts of the floor like 10-15 feet, where he ranks much more favorably. He also has improved in his three-point shooting and free-throw shooting.
Jennings has also shown closing ability this year. He has never been afraid to take the game-winning shot. Unfortunately, over the last two years, the results have been spotty at best. In fact, last year he was one of the NBA's most inconsistent during clutch time, shooting only .257 percent.
This year he has been much better. With shots like this he is showing the ability to close in this league.
The examples do not stop there; in several games this year Jennings has taken over in the second half, most recently in the Jan. 9 game against the Bulls, where Jennings exploded in the second half.
Who Should the Bucks keep?
Jennings is very young and only getting better and already has the skills to be one of the NBA's top players at the games most important position. In the end, I think this will not be a tough decision for Bucks GM John Hammond to make.