Point guard Brandon Jennings is back with the Milwaukee Bucks. Jennings spent his first 4 years with the Bucks before being traded to the Detroit Pistons. In his first two years with Detroit, Jennings was still playing at a high level before tearing his left achilles tendon in a game against the Bucks. Since then, his numbers and minutes have been down as he has bounced around several teams (Magic, Knicks, and Wizards) and eventually found himself playing overseas in China for the Shanxi Brave Dragons. The big question that remains is whether Jennings will be the man the Bucks need to make the run to the playoffs or is he the feel-good story that we want to believe is necessary?
Freshly signed onto his first 10 day contract, Jennings immediately made an impact in his first game of the 2017-18 season against the Memphis Grizzlies. Jennings burst onto the scene with Eric Bledsoe in foul trouble midway through the second quarter and gave the Bucks and their faithful a boost off the bench and finished with 16 points, 12 assists, and 8 rebounds in 23 minutes of action. Since then, though, he has seemingly fallen off the map in rotational minutes and statistical production.
Although Jennings has played in each of the 5 games in which he’s been available, he has logged an average of less than 18 minutes in the last 4 games. In 2 of those games, Jennings has logged less than 10 minutes. It is not surprising how few minutes he’s seen as Bledsoe has managed to stay out of foul trouble in the 4 games since. If you take out his first game anomaly against the lowly Grizzlies, Jennings is averaging 2.8 points, 0.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.3 steals, and 0.8 blocks in 11.5 minutes per game. Let’s not judge Jennings too quickly though; he’s unfamiliar with the Bucks’ offensive schemes and hasn’t played under Coach Joe Prunty. But with so many options in the Bucks offense and only so many touches to go around, it’s hard to foresee those numbers getting any better.
Bolstering the argument is Jennings’ impact (or lack thereof) on defense. The Bucks have lost 3 of the last 5 games played with Jennings on the roster. During this time, the Bucks have allowed over 119.4 points per game, which is 13.1 points higher than their season average of 106.3. Coach Prunty has made the team better on defense since the firing of Jason Kidd with the Bucks allowing opponents to score 106.1 points in the 45 games under Kidd and only 103.6 points allowed under Prunty in the 21 games played before the arrival of Jennings. Jennings shouldn’t take all the blame for this but his plus-minus average does not endear him. Jennings averages a -3 over the last 5 games in an average of 13.9 minutes of playing time. I want to take out the Grizzlies game because those stats are boosted due to Eric Bledsoe being in foul trouble. With the game against the Grizzlies out of the picture, over his last 4, his plus-minus average is -6.5 in 11.5 minutes per game. This is including a game against the Magic in which he went -13 in 8:31 of playing time and -10 against the Clippers in 6:24 of playing time. Jennings’ seeming lack of defensive ability will likely ensure he will continue to see limited time off the bench especially with the way the Bucks defense has been taken advantage of since his arrival.
Bucks fans may want to believe that Jennings can help the Bucks make the playoffs but with only 11 more games left on the schedule and with Matthew Dellavedova and Malcolm Brogdon soon to be back from their respective injuries, it doesn’t appear that Jennings will have a long-term spot on the team. If he can somehow make a positive impact following his second 10 day contract, it might be enough to get him a lasting gig on the Bucks’ for the remainder of their season. But time and statistics are against him, even with Giannis seemingly out now for at least one game. The injury does not directly impact his position as Jennings cannot and will not play the forward position. When this second 10 day contract ends, Jennings may remain unsigned for rest of the season. All else aside, it was nice to reminisce and witness his offensive greatness but he is not the piece the Bucks need in their push towards a playoff spot.