On Tuesday afternoon, the Wisconsin Herd announced via their Twitter account that NBA veteran Brandon Jennings off the G League waiver wire.
He’ll make his way to the Herd after a brief stint with Shanxi Zhouqyu of the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association) where he averaged 27.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 6.8 steals and 2.7 steals per game on 43% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc. Although those numbers may seem jaw-dropping to most American basketball fans, Jennings sat 16th on the CBA’s Points Per Game leaderboard.
In regards to the Wisconsin Herd, Jennings is mostly known for his four year stint with the Milwaukee Bucks that lasted from 2009-10 through 2012-13. During that run, he averaged 17 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game on 39% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc. His time with the Bucks was headlined by him putting up 55 points in a Nov. 14, 2009 game against the Golden State Warriors. While he was never able to recapture that magic, he still stood as a player that is held with high regard within the minds of certain Bucks fans that also run NBA G League sites.
In the 2013 offseason, the Bucks traded him to the Pistons in exchange for Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton. In his first year-and-a-half run with Detroit, Jennings played at the same level he did with the Bucks as he put up 15.5 points, 7.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game on 38% from the field and 34% from beyond the arc. Unfortunately the injury bug stung the point guard as he ruptured his left Achillies tendon during a January 25th matchup against the Toronto Raptors.
Unfortunately for Jennings, he was unable to truly bounce back from that injury as bounced around between the Magic and Knicks before winding up with the Washington Wizards during the 2016-17 season. That season would end up being his last year in the NBA (for now) as he put up 3.5 points and 4.7 assists per game on 27% from the field and 21% from beyond the arc.
After a solid stint in China, Jennings will use the G League as another means to show the NBA world that he go back to being at the same level that he was during his days with the Pistons and Bucks. Funny enough, he actually touched on that during a recent interview with HoopsHype when he was asked about whether he feels like he is at the same level before he went down with a torn Achilles in early 2015.
Yeah. I still think that I’m back to the person that I was before I got hurt, the person that I was in Detroit. Honestly, after the injury I was bouncing around the league from different teams. Having a new role which was coming off the bench after I got hurt, that was definitely one of the toughest assessments for me at that time.
In regards to the struggles that he faced with coming off the bench, Jennings probably won’t have to deal with that as a member of the Wisconsin Herd. For one, he’ll stand as the most recognizable face in the entire G League due to the success he had with Milwaukee and Detroit. Unlike past NBA vets turned G Leaguers like Emeka Okafor and Kendrick Perkins, Jennings is a younger 28 year old veteran that was averaging 15 points and 7 assists just three years ago in the 2014-15 season.
So even though the Herd already have a solid backcourt rotation in place with Xavier Munford, Ricky Ledo, JeQuan Lewis and James Blackmon, Jennings should immediately get a spot in their starting rotation due to his health, somewhat recent success at the NBA level and style of play.
Since we’ve gone over those first two factors over the course of this piece, lets talk about his style of play. What Jennings lacked in efficiency he made up for it in just being the kind of player that puts on a show whenever he steps on the court. Headlined by handles that seem to come straight from those old And1 mixtapes, Jennings is able to cross up any foe to create an opening needed to shoot a mid-range or perimeter jumper. Although some of those jumpers probably pushed his coaches closer to baldness, it still was pretty entertaining to fans watching at home.
In addition to his ability as a ball-handler and shooter, Jennings also stands as a pretty underrated facilitator. During his NBA career, Jennings averaged 5.7 assists per game with a solid 2.6 Ast/TO ratio. His career Ast/TO ratio is better than what we see from current NBA All-Star point guards like Russell Westbrook and John Wall.
His success as a distributor had a lot to do with how he was able to use his great handles to capture the attention of defenders. After he was able to do that, Jennings was able to fire these bullet passes to cutting bigs or open perimeter shooters to give his team some easy points. Another method of his distributing madness came through the drive-and-dish as he was able to motor his way to the paint before working into to a teammate.
If Jennings was able to work that magic in the NBA, there’s no question that he could get it done in the G League. The Herd might be the best team for Jennings to display his offensive attack as they’re a team that’s absolutely desperate for some offensive firepower. Since the calendar turned to 2018, the Herd have been the worst offensive team in the G League as they’ve scored a league-low 98.8 points per 100 possessions. Their atrocious offense has also led to them going 3-12 during that period of time.
The Herd’s offensive struggles are due to a variety of different factors. Arguably the most important reason deals with how they really don’t have a significant scoring threat besides Munford and Joel Bolomboy, who average 20 and 19 points per game, respectively. Although both of those players have been great offensive threats, the results have been mixed when you look away from that duo.
Sure, we’e seen some great performances from JeQuan Lewis or James Blackmon, but their production has been inconsistent when you look at it from a game-by-game basis. That problem with inconsistent contributors only intensifies when you remember that Munford has missed some games with the Herd due to his status as a two-way prospect with the Milwaukee Bucks.
The addition of Jennings should really help with that problem as he could realistically step in and be one of the best scorers in the entire G League. Honestly, I could see him playing at a similar level that what we saw from Trey Burke when he was with Westchester Knicks earlier this year. That comparison is due to how both players are gunners that love to shake defenders with wicked dribble moves and spot up to shoot from anywhere around the court.
For Burke, he shined with Westchester as he put up 26.6 points, 5.3 assists, 2 steals per game on 49% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc. Although those terrific numbers, I could definitely Jennings being able to get close or maybe even matching that level of production with the Wisconsin Herd. If he’s able to do that then the Herd’s offensive woes might be a thing of the past and they’d be able to get out of the huge slump that they’re currently in.
When Jennings first suits up with the Herd on February 21st when they play the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, they’ll look to improve on a 17-20 record which puts them 4.5 games behind Fort Wayne in the Central Division. With only 13 games left on their schedule, the odds are really stacked against them to catch Fort Wayne and win the Central Division. However, the addition of Jennings might give that team a fighting chance as they finally have huge scoring threat that they’ve desperately needed since they lost James Young in early January.
If Brandon Jennings is able to recapture the magic that he showed with Detroit or Milwaukee, sky’s the limit for both himself and the Wisconsin Herd. Well...until he gets called up to the NBA.