Brandon Jennings has never been the sort of guy you would deem as consistent, and he likely never will be. In fact, the only context in which Jennings being referred to as consistent would make sense is if it was alluding to his inconsistency. When he was drafted, the Milwaukee Bucks knew this, and when he was acquired by the Detroit Pistons this summer, they knew exactly what they were getting. The 24-year-old is capable of exploding offensively at any given moment, yet he can also be the guy to shoot you out of a game. As he approaches his 50th game as a Piston, all of these aspects of his play have been on show, but more recently there has been signs that Jennings is settling into his new surroundings.
When news broke of Brandon Jennings joining up with the Pistons back in July, there were many who sneered and derided the idea. Entering into the summer, Detroit’s biggest asset was their dynamic and powerful young frontcourt duo of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. With this in mind, general manager Joe Dumars was generally expected to add complementary pieces to his squad to allow the continued development of their star duo. Instead, the Pistons picked up another forward, and one who’s renowned as a poor shooter and floor spacer, in Josh Smith. While Jennings, a point guard with undoubted talent but often criticized for his selfishness and wild shots, was next to join. All in all, it was beginning to look like a mismatch of talent that was destined for disaster.
That’s how things have transpired for much of the Pistons season also. Now as they approach the All-Star break below .500, with the firing of head coach Maurice Cheeks fresh in the memory, it’s time for them to assess the current state of affairs in the Motor City. One thing that will undoubtedly stand out is Brandon Jennings recent improvements. For his entire season to date Jennings is averaging 17.8 points and 8.1 assists per game. These are solid numbers, but issues arise when you look beyond the surface and see Jennings’ shooting percentages. For his career Jennings shoots 39.3 percent from the field and 35.3 from behind the three point line. His numbers this season are falling in line with them at 38.3 and 34.6 percent respectively. For a guy who loves to shoot the ball these aren’t necessarily the sort of numbers you’d be looking for, particularly when he’s also your primary ball handler.
Despite Cheeks’ firing, Detroit has shown signs of life recently and no one has done more than Jennings to initiate that revival. In his last 10 games, Jennings has only scored less than 20 points on one occasion. All signs point to him having become a more confident, assertive member of the group, as his performances have led the way. In those 10 games, Jennings has experienced a drop in assists, down to 7.4 a game, yet that is counterbalanced by his considerable increase in scoring. Not only has Jennings upped his PPG to 24.7 for that period, but his efficiency has improved also. During this spell, he is shooting 42.6 percent from the field and 38.7 from long range. For a guard these aren’t ideal figures, but considering his attempts have increased by 3.1 a night, an increased shooting percentage is a welcome plus point for Detroit.
The Pistons find themselves at 5-5 for those 10 games, having picked up impressive wins over San Antonio, Brooklyn and Denver in their last three. What does this say about Jennings? People who talk about the need for Jennings to become a more willing passer for Detroit are missing the point. Jennings already passes more than he is given credit for, and if he can continue to average between seven and eight assists per night, the Pistons and their front three should be more than satisfied.What Detroit really need though is jump shooting and floor spacing. If they can find a way to draw defenders away from the paint and out on to the perimeter more regularly, Smith, Monroe and Drummond will have greater success inside. This is where Jennings style of play can play right into the Pistons hands. As long as they can help Jennings to continue to improve and maintain an efficient level of shooting, it will benefit the whole team.
If better times do indeed lie ahead in Motown, it’s Brandon Jennings who could prove to be the driving force behind it.