Detroit Pistons: Evaluation of Brandon Jennings


John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

With the Detroit Pistons struggling and on the outside of the playoff picture, it’s time to look at just what’s going on in Motor City.

I decided to do a single game evaluation of all of the Pistons’ starters. This won’t necessarily get to the root of problem, since other players’ performance greatly impacts a single player. However, individual games are easier to break down and get an idea of how each individual is playing.

Under the microscope today is Brandon Jennings. The Milwaukee transfer is in his fifth season in the league. Best known as a product of the famed Oak Park high school program, Jennings had a unique path to the NBA. Instead of playing for a college, Jennings opted to play overseas for an Italian team.

The guard has never scored less than 15 points a game, but he’s never shot better than 42 percent from the field. Part of the reason for this was a stagnant Milwaukee offense that made Jennings take a lot of bad looks, but it also stemmed from terrible shot selection.

Yesterday, the Pistons played the Denver Nuggets. In the team’s previous meeting, the Pistons won 126-109. Jennings was the top performer, scoring 35 points and dishing out 12 assists. However, the trip wouldn’t be as kind to the Pistons, as they fell 108-119.

The Pistons were playing without center Andre Drummond, who was out with a neck injury. The starters were Jennings, Rodney Stuckey, Kyle Singler, Greg Monroe, and Josh Smith.

The opening minutes showed why Jennings is valuable, and also why he is a huge liability. Getting out in transition, he found Monroe cutting to the cup, and got the ball to a trailing Smith, putting him in a position to score.

However, it was a different story on the defensive end. He let Aaron Brooks get by him repeatedly, which meant another Piston was stepping up to help him recover. Several times the collapsing help defense led to Brooks kicking the ball out, and the open man would hit.

Though Brooks got by Jennings one on one, the biggest problem lay with the pick and roll. Jennings was always late fighting through the screen, and the Pistons big men were no match for the speed of a guard like Brooks.

Whether his offense makes up for his defense is a matter of debate. When Brandon Jennings gets out in transition or is able to get to the lane, good things happen for Detroit. Jennings was able to find cutters, and used his penetration to find shooters on the wings.

Jennings also knows what works on the offensive end. Greg Monroe is a great passer for a big man, and Jennings consistently got the ball to him at the elbow. Whenever Monroe came up, Jennings passed it to him right away, and Monroe often found cutters for easy buckets.

He still takes the occasional bad shot, which harkens back to his Milwaukee days. He took a couple of contested jumpers early in the shot clock that he had no business taking. The other complaint about Jennings’ game is carelessness with the rock, and it’s a well-founded complaint. The guard often doesn’t make the easy pass, instead opting for flash.

However, he can consistently utilize that flash for a purpose. He got to the rim with a couple of great behind the back ball fakes, allowing him to get a layup. He also offered a nice behind the back  pass to lead to a Josh Smith slam.

Brandon Jennings also lets his frustrations show on the court. He stood with his hands on his hips as he watched Josh Smith dribble outside the arc and launch an ill-advised three. No one can blame Jennings for this, as Smith should never take three-pointers. However, he has to work on developing chemistry with his teammates rather than giving the on court equivalent of the eye-roll.

The Pistons were up for much of the game, even stretching the lead to 12 at one point. Detroit’s defense was the downfall, as the Nuggets consistently fought back by sending Aaron Brooks off screens.

What was indicative of the night was a pair of Timofey Mozgov dunks. Mozgov is known for being dunked on by everybody else, but he unleashed a couple of posters on the Pistons.

Jennings would finish on the bench after barely playing in the fourth quarter. Jennings is a fun player to watch, but he has to ramp up his effort on the defensive end and ensure he takes care of the ball on offense.

His final stat line: 3-8 from the field, 1-5 from three point land, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 turnovers, and 7 points.

Up next in my single game evaluation is none other than the Moose, Greg Monroe.