Saturday, March 15, 2014

Listen to Your Chart: Brandon Jennings

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** Listen to Your Chart: Josh Smith

Brandon Jennings had high expectations put on him entering this season, both from the organization and himself.  He vowed to change his game and be more of a facilitator and less of an isolation scorer.  He has showed a very slight improvement in shot selection, taking fewer shots per 36 minutes than he ever has in his career.  However, that hasn't translated into an improvement in efficiency, as Jennings has struggled to convert on both his two and three-point attempts.  Jennings' struggles to convert, coupled with his highest three-point attempt rate of his career, have combined to produce the worst shooting efficiency season of his career.  Let's take a look at Jennings' shot charts to see where things are going wrong.

BRANDON JENNINGS - 40.2 2P%, 34.0 3P%, 49.1 TS%, 44.3 eFG%

Brandon Jennings Shot Frequency by Zone, 2013-14, via Vorped

Brandon Jennings FG% by Zone, 2013-14, via Vorped

One thing jumps out right away from the two above charts.  Brandon Jennings needs to minimize the amount of three point attempts he takes.  He's below league average from every single zone beyond the arc.  However, he manages to take 33.4% of his total field goal attempts from the wings and top of the key, where he shoots no better than 34.5%.  While Jennings has reduced his field goal attempts per 36 minutes, he has yet to start taking smarter shots.  Jennings is having a poor season from behind the arc, but it shouldn't come as any surprise to him.  He's only managed to shoot above 35% from behind the arc in two of his five NBA seasons.  He could do wonders for his eFG% and TS% if he were to cut down on threes from the wings and top of the key.

The second thing that sticks out is, how surprisingly good Jennings is at converting in the paint.  I assume that his success on the left and right blocks are a product of fast break layups, but his work from the left elbow is excellent.  Yet, he only takes 2.6% of his shots from that location.  Looking at past years' shot charts, this area has only been a weakness for Jennings in his rookie year.  A reason for his success at this location, in my opinion, is the threat of a lob to Andre Drummond.  Jennings and the Pistons' need to exploit this factor. 

Jennings could also benefit from almost completely eliminating the mid-range jumper from his repertoire.  He's terrible from the right baseline, mediocre on both mid-range wings, and is having an okay year from the left baseline.  Jennings was good from mid-range last year, but that's really the only season where he can claim high marks in those areas.  Seeing as those are the worst shots in basketball, Jennings ought to be minimizing them anyways.  He isn't an efficient mid-range scorer, soJennings would benefit from taking another dribble and opening up his options.

I think the ultimate conclusion here is just that Jennings needs to shoot less.  He doesn't really have a calling card as a scorer, whereas he is actually having a good season passing the ball.  Jennings is posting a career high, 34% Assist Rate, with a minor uptick in TO% up to around 14%.  He provides much more value to the Pistons when he's passing the ball, both because he's a poor shooter and a pretty good facilitator.  Personally, I think the Pistons need to unload Jennings in the offseason, but if he's going to be around, he could be a 10 APG Point Guard if he turns two or three field goal attempts per game into passes.  His personality doesn't lend much hope that he'll figure things out though.  With the weapons he has in the paint, and on the fast break, Jennings needs to do more of what's working, and pass the ball.  He hasn't been a nightmare acquisition (do we have any of those?), but he's leaving a lot on the table.  Here's to hoping he figures it out next year, and not this season when every loss counts.

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