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Why Brandon Jennings to Detroit Pistons Would Be Toxic Fit for Both Sides

Jan 29, 2013; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings (3) defended by Detroit Pistons point guard Rodney Stuckey (3) during the second quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Bucks beat the Pistons 117-90. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports
Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 25, 2016

Brandon Jennings is running short on options, but he and the Detroit Pistons should stay as far away from each other as possible. For both their sakes. 

The lefty point guard averaged 17.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game during the 2012-13 season, which could be his final go with the Milwaukee Bucks. He entered the offseason as a restricted free agent, and that's exactly what he remains. 

While a return to Milwaukee remains a possibility by virtue of the Bucks' legal right to match any offer sheet that Jennings signs, the Sporting News' Sean Deveney reports that the southpaw isn't exactly intrigued by this possibility: 

If the bridge between the Bucks and point guard Brandon Jennings has not entirely burned, at least this can be said: It’s fiercely aflame. According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Jennings does not want to go back to play for the Bucks next season.

As it stands, Jennings is a restricted free agent and his rights still belong with the Bucks. He can sign with another team, but Milwaukee has the right to match any offer. That’s one reason teams shied away from Jennings on the free-agent market this summer.

One team that has popped up in the rumor mill is Detroit. According to the Journal Times' Gery Woelfel, there have been some Jennings-to-Detroit talks sprouting up while the league's youngest players go to work in Las Vegas: 

However, MLive Media Group's David Mayo refutes this report, writing that general manager Joe Dumars has not had any discussions about the talented and mercurial floor general: 

Detroit still doesn't have a natural point guard on the roster, though, and there's money for Dumars to spend. It's a natural fit for Jennings, assuming a positional hole and financial flexibility are the only criteria for his landing spot. 

There should be more to it than that, which is where things start getting problematic. 

Only so many volume shooters can reasonably coexist on one roster, and Jennings would push Detroit over the top after Dumars signed Josh Smith during the earlier portion of the free agency period. 

With the lefty point guard on board, the starting lineup would presumably look something like this: Jennings, Brandon Knight, Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Now, let's look at how many shots they all took during the 2012-13 season. 

Jennings and Smith each fired away 15.6 times per contest for their former teams, while Knight showed a bit more restraint. The combo guard only took 11.7 looks each game. Monroe and Drummond attempted 13.1 and 5.7 shots per game, respectively. 

All together, that's 61.7 shots per game for the starting lineup, a number that comes without factoring in the expected increase in Drummond's role. 

Throughout the 2012-13 campaign, the Milwaukee Bucks—surprise, surprise, the team that rostered Jennings—took 87.8 shots per game to pace the league. The Miami Heat finished 30th, taking only 77.4, while the Pistons finished near the bottom of the pack with 81 shots per game. 

Think about that for a second. Using last season's pace, there would only be 19.3 shots each game for the other seven players who are active. That's less than three per bench player. 

I don't think Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Chauncey Billups and Kyle Singler will be particularly pleased to hear that. 

Shots will need to be sacrificed, and they'll most likely come from the backcourt. Drummond will inevitably take at least six shots each game, and Monroe can't give up touches because Detroit needs to maintain an interior presence. 

On the Pistons, Jennings would need to give up doing the thing he loves most: shooting the ball with reckless abandon. 

While that's problematic for the prep-to-pro point guard, it's also bad news for the team that he'd be playing for. He doesn't get much better when he stops taking shots; instead, he just gets a little uninvolved.

During the 2012-13 season, Jennings attempted 12 or fewer shots in 18 different games. He averaged 9.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 6.2 assists per contest under those parameters. Only the rebounds improved from his total per-game averages, and scarily enough, the assist total is artificially boosted by a 19-dime outing against the Toronto Raptors that clearly stands out as an outlier. 

Jennings' turnovers did drop to 2.1 cough-ups per game, but the shooting percentage wiped out any chance for improvement. 

There's typically a tradeoff between volume and efficiency, but this particular floor general doesn't believe in such mathematical theories. While he shot 39.9 percent as a whole, he made only 33.9 percent of his attempts from the field when he kept his trigger finger from letting him take more than 12 shots. 

Even though he struggles to keep his field-goal percentage over basketball's version of the Mendoza Line, Jennings is still at his best when he's given free rein. With a green light in the back of his mind, he becomes more aggressive, both in terms of his scoring and facilitating. 

Teams have to live with the missed shots simply because they allow Jennings to pair them with positive outcomes on a greater percentage of the plays he takes part of. It's a weird conundrum, but then again, Jennings is a weird player.

As a result, a pairing between the southpaw and the Pistons would result in disaster for both sides. They'd be forced to choose between making Jennings happy or appeasing the rest of the roster, and the latter is the obvious decision. Unfortunately, it's one that doesn't have a pleasant outcome.

Jennings wouldn't be particularly pleased with his inevitable role in the offense, and Detroit would be even less happy with the results.

In order to do what's best for everyone involved, let's keep these two parties separated, other than on days where they play against each other.

 

Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference 

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