In the same season Joe Dumars made Josh Smith the highest paid player in Detroit Pistons franchise history (at the time), he also executed a sign-and-trade for another controversial player: Brandon Jennings. Known for a 55 point game in his rookie season, an unorthodox left handed shot, and for circumventing the NBA's one-year college rule by playing a year in Italy, Jennings came to the Pistons and was received with mild enthusiasm from a fan base burned before by shoot-happy point guards. The viewpoint of Pistons' fans has since changed.
Following the 2009 NBA Draft, I had a conversation with a previous coworker about who was picked and for what teams. Jennings name eventually entered the conversation. Knowing that he intentionally bypassed the NBA's one-year college rule to get paid and that he liked to be a showboater in similar fashion to that of Allen Iverson, I could not care less for Jennings. When he was signed by the Pistons, I cringed.
But after Jennings' play last season, I no longer feel the way I did.
2014-15 Year in Review
Coming off of arguably the worst season in his career, Jennings had a lot to prove in 2014-2015. His field goal percentage in 2013-2014 was the second worst of his career. His three point percentage, third worst. Heck, his free throw percentage was the worst of his career. Turnovers were the worst of his career. The only numbers that were "good" was his career best 7.6 assists per game.
For the first 25 games of the 2014-15 season, things were not looking any better for the point guard. He was shooting the ball worse than he ever had -- save for when he was put on the free throw line. His assists were down from the previous year and so were his rebounds. Though the stat is pretty pointless, he was a -3.3 in the plus/minus category.
... and Brandon Jennings took off.
Over the next 16 games, Jennings was balling. He shot 43.9-percent from the field and 39.4-percent from distance, both career marks. His assists and steals went up slightly, and his turnovers went down slightly. He was a +7.3 in the plus/minus category. The team went from 94.4 points per game to 104.1 points per game. After being 5-23, they went 12-4 over a 16 game stretch. Things were cooking.
Jennings gave us wonderful moments such as these:
Unfortunately, in a loss to Milwaukee (Jennings' old stomping grounds), Jennings suffered an Achilles tear and has since been on the mend.
2015-16 Projected Production
Barring an unforeseen trade of, or injury to, Reggie Jackson, Brandon Jennings will likely never start for the Pistons again. There has been some talk that he could eventually play some next to Jackson, but that would not be in the starting lineup (again, barring an unforeseen trade of, or injury to, both Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jodie Meeks). This is Jennings's last year on his contract, and it could be the reviving one of his career.
Jennings will be out until late November or mid-to-late December. When he gets back, he will have to shake off any rust that accumulated during his prolonged time off the court. He most likely will not be playing alongside KCP and Andre Drummond (not to mention Greg Monroe), but instead Jodie Meeks, Stanley Johnson, Anthony Tolliver and Aron Baynes. Jennings is ok with this.
Jennings will be counted on to be the spark plug play maker off the bench when he comes back. Being an offensive-minded guard, that should be no problem for him. Having four shooters around him should help his assist numbers. But he'll have to use his time coming off the bench as a way to land another contract. Depending on how well he plays, he may find another starting job or he may be looked at as a quality backup point guard for the rest of his career.
Honestly, I hope he plays well. I would love for him to be the player we need to push us to the playoffs (more than I think Reggie, KCP, Drummond and Johnson will). I would love to re-sign him the following year to continue to be the backup point guard (depends on Spencer Dinwiddie's progress). His play this year means a lot, not just to this team, but for his career.
60+ games - 20 minutes, 11 points and 4 assists a game on 42.0/37.0 shooting.