Brandon Jennings mystifies us.
Nearly everything the Milwaukee Bucks' point guard does is vexing. His play is tumultuous, his loyalty wavers and his attitude changes by the game.
With Jennings set to explore restricted free agency after this season, these perplexities have never been more relevant then they are now.
On the one hand, Jennings is on the cusp of leading the Bucks to their first postseason appearance since he was a rookie in 2010. On the other, some of his actions can be construed as cancerous to both the team and his development.
Does the good outweigh the bad? Is it the other way around? Does the ugly trounce everything else?
Unfortunately, it's not that simple. With Jennings, it never is.
Jennings continues to show flashes of star-esque promise. There wouldn't be a dilemma surrounding his future with the Bucks and NBA in general if he didn't.
This season alone he has gone on tears worthy of a max contract (spoiler). He's shooting a career high from behind the arc (37.5 percent) and from the charity stripe (82 percent) while also dishing out a career-best 6.8 assists per game.
Milwaukee's enigma is just one of four players currently averaging at least 17 points, six assists, 1.5 steals and shooting 37 percent or better from deep this season.
Stephen Curry, Jrue Holiday and LeBron James.
Jennings and Curry are also the only two in the NBA posting those averages and shooting at least 80 percent from the foul line as well.
Should the floor general's current averages hold, he'll be just the seventh player in Association history to average 17 points, 5.5 assists, 1.5 steals and knock down 80-plus percent of his free throws through the first four seasons of his career.
Once again, we find Jennings putting himself next to premier talents such as Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Pete Maravich and Tiny Archibald, among others. That's good. It's really good.
As is his ability to elude defenders.
Jennings moves extremely well. Think John Wall, only less explosive.
When he's got control of his handle he's able to split defenders with a nifty crossover. Few players can match his lateral quickness. And as you can see, Kris Humphries isn't one of those few.
Much of the criticism Jennings receives is justified. But castigation doesn't come without potential and lofty expectations. He's often reprimanded for his actions and shoot-first instincts, because he's held to high standards.
And that's good.
In The Facts of Life style, you have to take the good with the bad. Not just with Jennings but with every NBA player.
With Jennings, however, there is more bad to go around than most.
His potent point-totaling can sometimes be a thing of beauty, but mostly, his offensive accolades are laced with a heaping dose of inefficiency.
Jennings' 17-plus points per game are a desirable form of contribution. That those points are coming on 39.5 percent shooting from the floor this season, and 39.3 percent for his career, is not.
Assuming his averages remain in their current ballpark for the rest of the year, Jennings will become the fourth player in NBA history to average at least 17 points per game through the first four seasons of his career with a field-goal clip below 40 percent.
Bob Cousy is normally good company to be in. Nothing about Jennings' efficiency is normal, though. Or even good. It's bad.
Just like his attitude.
Jennings is one of those players who would have benefited from a year or two of college ball to mature as both a player and person.
Unable to declare for the NBA draft after high school because of age restrictions and unsure if he had the SAT scores to attend college, Jennings went pro in Europe.
Some would call that setting an innovative precedent, but it can also be considered damaging. We've watched so many kids make the jump from prep to pros over the years, and history is littered with players who just weren't ready. For every Kobe and LeBron, there's a Jonathan Bender and Kwame Brown.
Comparing Jennings to draft busts is admittedly unfair. Four years deep into his NBA career, it's clear he's a special talent...with a deficient personality. He's a little more like Allen Iverson than he realizes.
Someone who fancies himself a star shouldn't be calling out coaches or butting heads with the media.
When you're unhappy with a decision your coach made, there are better ways to handle it than calling him out on Twitter. That didn't stop Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings from taking to social media to question a late-game timeout called by coach Jim Boylan in the Bucks' 109-99 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jennings deleted the tweet shortly after posting.
Jennings deleted the tweet. Great. Grand. Wonderful. He never should have tweeted it to begin with.
Sadly, digitally putting in his way-more-than-two-cents-worth is just the beginning.
Jennings' shooting can be ugly, horrific even. His oft-uncensored take on just about everything is even worse.
Per Highkin, he's had no qualms about voicing his displeasure with the Bucks or delivering backhanded threats:
Jennings has made no secret of his unhappiness with the Bucks in recent months. As far back as last year, he was looking ahead to free agency and expressing a desire to sign in a big market. He did not sign an extension to his rookie contract with the Bucks before the October deadline, and openly talked about being intrigued by the Dallas Mavericks earlier this season. Jennings has even hinted he might do something unprecedented for player as high-profile as he is, and bypass restricted free agency by signing the qualifying offer this summer, essentially killing the Bucks' leverage to keep or trade him beyond next year.
And you thought his risqué tweeting was bad.
Young Brandon has taken an "I'll burn whatever bridges I want" approach to restricted free agency. If you're LeBron, and the rest of the NBA bows down to you, that's fine. Hell, if you're an unrestricted free agent, you have the option of severing any ties you want, but Jennings isn't. Yet he acts like it.
Does he not realize the Bucks can match any offer he receives this summer? I think he does, hence him hinting at signing his qualifying offer just to spite the organization.
To say we're surprised by that would be, well, a balder-than-Drew-Gooden-faced lie.
This is the same kid—emphasis on "kid"—who expressed his intent to shop around this summer.
"I am going to keep my options open, knowing that the time is coming up,'' Jennings told ESPN.com's Chris Broussard via email. "I'm doing my homework on big-market teams.''
He's also the same one who switched agents midseason after the Bucks didn't sign him to an extension before the October 31 deadline.
Always staying in character, Jennings wasted little time in professing his love for the Dallas Mavericks upon learning of their reported interest (via Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News):
Yeah, of course. Who wouldn’t want to play in an environment like this every night?
You’ve got an owner [Mark Cuban] who’s so into his team. Every time you see the Mavs, you see him cheering or going crazy. They won a championship. They’re about winning.
I'm perfectly fine with him divulging he will keep his "options open," but to delve into specifics? Are you kidding me? It's like LeBron telling us he was going to sign with the Miami Heat before the 2009-10 campaign even concluded.
Okay, not quite. Not even close. Jennings isn't on that level of greatness. His hubris is. And it's ugly.
This is the third time I've been benched in the second half and it hasn't been under (former coach Scott) Skiles. You always want to be out there to help your team.
I don't see any all-stars in this locker room so I think everybody should be held accountable, like anybody else. There's no maxed-out (contract) players in this locker room; there's no all-stars. So don't try to put me on a pedestal and just give everybody else the freedom to do whatever they want.
Excuse me while I help Jennings off his soapbox.
He's correct, there are no max contract stars in Milwaukee's locker room, himself included.
Where does he get off complaining about a coach's decision? He doesn't have the credentials to do that. This isn't Mike D'Antoni benching a four-time All-Star like Pau Gasol, it's Boylan reprimanding a child.
Does it ever end?
Perhaps once Jennings' free-agency situation is resolved it will. Maybe a change of scenery is just what he needs. Or maybe he just needs that dejected feeling that will come with not being offered a max contract over the offseason.
Either way, Jennings has some serious growing up to do.
Hopefully, these transgressions ultimately prove to be a part of the maturation process, and not everlasting displays of senseless repugnancy.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports, 82games.com and NBA.com unless otherwise noted.