One of the big stories of the early season is Brandon Jennings, who has put up a 55-point game, and has led the Bucks to a winning record. He has caught me, and many others, by surprise.
But, while I give him credit for his early success, I don’t see it continuing. I’m basing this not on any insider information I have, or even on a scouting report of the guy, but on the simple fact that he shoots too much for a point guard. His scoring average might remain high, but the Bucks’ success is unlikely to continue.
Jennings has taken 284 shots in his first 15 games, for an average of approximately 19 per game. As a point of comparison, consider some of the numbers put up by the great point guards of the modern era:
In 979 career games, Isiah Thomas took 15,904 shots, for an average of 16.2 per game. He’s at the high end of the spectrum, and he still took more than 2 fewer shots per game than Jennings.
Magic played 906 career games, and took 11,951 shots, for an average of 13.2.
Kidd has played 1,124 games and has taken 13,720 shots, for an average of 12.2.
Nash has played 950 career games, and has taken 10,151 shots, for an average of 10.7.
Stockton played 1,504 career games and took 13,658 shots, for an average of 9.1.
Even in comparison to some of the best young point guards in the league today, he is still at the high end of the spectrum.
Chris Paul has played 310 career games, and has taken 4507 shots, for an average of 14.5 shots.
Rajon Rondo has played 251 career games, and has taken 2072 shots, for an average of 8.3.
Deron Williams has played 324 career games, and has taken 4206 shots, for an average of 13.0.
Clearly, Jennings is shooting more than these successful point guards. Perhaps he is simply so talented that he can break the mold, and redefine the position. I doubt it, for reasons that have nothing to do with questions about his talent. A closer look at his numbers reveals that he shoots 43.3% from the field, and averages 5.5 assists per game. Those numbers compare unfavorably to the numbers of other great point guards:
Magic shot 52% from the field, and averaged 11.2 assists per game.
Stockton shot 51.5% from the field, and averaged 10.5 assists per game.
Nash shoots 48.8% from the field, and averages 8.1 assists per game.
Isiah shot 45% from the field, and averaged 9.3 assists per game.
Kidd shoots 40% from the field, and averages 9.2 assists per game.
Thus, Kidd is the only one with a lower field-goal percentage, and his assist numbers are much higher.
Jennings’s numbers also compare unfavorably to the premiere young guards in the game today:
Paul shoots 47% from the field, and averages 9.9 assists per game.
Rondo shoots 48% from the field, and averages 5.9 assists per game (he averaged more than 8 assists per game in each of the past two seasons).
Williams shoots 46.8% from the field, and averages 8.7 assists per game.
So, Jennings’s numbers, while impressive, raise numerous doubts about his game. To be sure, he is young, and it’s not fair to say that someone is fatally flawed based on the fact that, after only 15 games, his numbers compare unfavorably to some of the greats at his position. But, a point guard’s job is to get his team good shots, and the clearest measurements of success are his assists per game along with his shooting numbers. No point guard that I can think of has led his team to the playoffs, let alone a championship, by passing so little while shooting so often and so poorly.
All of this is based on numbers alone — I haven’t seen him play yet. I tried to DVR the nationally-televised game he played in on Friday, but something went wrong with my DVR. (Amazingly, it seems to tape everything my wife wants to tape, but regularly fails to tape my shows. Coincidence?) I was pretty bummed, not only because I wanted to see Jennings play, but also because I’m quite sure that I’ve watched more than 1,000 games of basketball in my life, and I can’t remember ever watching the Bucks. I mean, seriously, have they been on national TV since Don Nelson stopped coaching them?
I will make sure to watch them soon, even if it means that I have to research for a local bar that will be broadcasting one of their games, and head over there to see them. Until then, all I have to go by when judging Jennings are his numbers. While some of those numbers are impressive, the bottom line is that they are not the kinds of numbers I would want my team’s point guard to be putting up.