Brandon Jennings: More Than His Numbers

Paul SkoneyContributor IMarch 11, 2010

DALLAS - FEBRUARY 12:  Brandon Jennings #3 of the Rookie team shoots against the Sophomore team during the first half of the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam part of 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend at American Airlines Center on February 12, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Brandon Jennings was the toast of the town in November after averaging 22.1 points and 5.6 assists per game whilst leading the Bucks to a respectable 8-6 record and winning the NBA's rookie of the month award.

That was also the month where he made history and scored 55 points, the highest for a Milwaukee Bucks rookie in the franchise's history, and became the youngest player in NBA history to score 50 points in a game.

Since then, Jennings has averaged 13.7 points per game and 6.2 assists, numbers which on the surface look pretty solid for a 20 year old NBA point guard.

The real reason Jennings has come under heavy scrutiny from both fans and analysts is his shooting percentage. Even with his tremendous November, Jennings is currently shooting 36.8% from the field on the season, a record low for an NBA player who attempts 15 or more shots per game and a number which has caused Jennings to slip to number five in David Thorpe's most recent Rookie Rankings for ESPN.

On the surface it would appear Jennings deserves this ranking because of his shooting percentage, however, those that rank him that low clearly aren't the ones watching him play night in and night out.

It's pretty tough to argue against Sacramento's Tyreke Evans being rookie of the year or to argue that Jennings has been statistically superior to Golden State's Stephen Curry. Both are having phenomenal rookie seasons and that should not be taken away from them.

Thorpe's list places both Darren Collison of New Orleans and Denver's Ty Lawson above Jennings, despite each having experienced very inconsistent playing time over the course of the season.

Jennings should be ranked no lower than third in any rookie ranking list.

Despite Jennings's decline in statistical output on the season, he has undoubtedly become a much better player than the one he was when he scored 55 points. It's unfortunate that many analysts don't see that because of his numbers.

He has become better due to his experience in situations which Bucks coach Scott Skiles allowed him to work his way through rather than giving him the quick hook and relegating him to the bench. 

Jennings has come a long way with regards to his play as an NBA point guard.

His command of the offense has improved. Instead of looking for his shot, which he was caught doing a little too much of during the beginning of the season, Jennings now looks for ways to set up his teammates by probing the lane and swinging the ball on the perimeter.

That makes the Milwaukee offense much more dangerous given the number of guys who can score from the outside such as Carlos Delfino, John Salmons, Luke Ridnour, Ersan Ilyasova, Charlie Bell, and Jerry Stackhouse.

Jennings's defense has also become much better than most imagined at the start of the season.

At 6'1" 170 lbs, Jennings isn't physically imposing, but he is blessed with both quickness and the willingness to dig in and stop his opponent in their tracks. At the start of the season Jennings had a lot of difficulties dealing with screens, often having to drop below them leaving his man wide open for a jump shot.

He also had issues staying in front of his man, often gambling too much or being a step too slow. These two issues have been cleaned up by the Bucks coaching staff to the point where Jennings can now be considered an above average defender at the point guard position, something very tough to do as a rookie.

Jennings stays home and uses his quickness to be as pesky as he can possibly be. This was more evident than ever against the Lebronless Cleveland Cavaliers last week in which he pressured Mo Williams all 90 feet up the court, forcing him into an appalling three for seventeen shooting performance when Cleveland needed him the most.

During the month of February, the Bucks held opponents to a stifling 43.4% from the field, their best month of the season in that regard. This has also coincided with Andrew Bogut's shot blocking tear which saw him swat 2.8 shots per game during the month of March.

With Jennings able to stay in front of his man, Bogut has been able to stay home for help rather than rotating over to stop the penetration from opposing point guards. While the defensive improvement during February cannot be placed solely upon Jennings shoulders, make no mistake, his improvement on that end of the floor is a huge part of the success.

Brandon Jennings is a 20 year old point guard leading a young Bucks team against grown men in the NBA and finding success in the form of a current standing of 5th in the eastern conference.

Jennings isn't your typical rookie.

He's a rookie thats picking up the game far faster than his peers and doing it with a confidence that the Bucks haven't seen for years, rubbing it off on each and everyone of his teammates.

For that, Jennings deserves to be in the top three of the rookie of the year discussion and a strong candidate for runner up. There is more to Brandon Jennings than meets the eye and more people around the league are about to take notice.