Brandon Jennings Edition: Milwaukee Bucks Success/Failure Project

Brandon Jennings is the ultimate wildcard for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2011-12, but when it comes to projections and potential, the Buck stops here. Or maybe the Bucks stop here. It all depends on how well Brandon mitigates his deficiencies and if he can maximize the impact of his immense physical skills in meaningful ways.

This is the year, right? Jennings has to make ‘the leap' to justify all of the hype that has surrounded him since he burst on the NBA scene with high-scoring performances as a rookie. How high must he ‘leap,' you ask? Frank Madden did a remarkable job presenting the vision of a reasonable transformation in Young Buck's game that would bring him to league average offensive efficiency. That seems like a good place to start, so let's break down what would constitute success and failure for Jennings this season.

Here is why I am doing this: The Introductory Piece

Here is what I am doing: for each player on the Bucks roster, we will take basic statistical measures (FG%, 3PT%, TS%, Assist Rate, Turnover Rate, PER, etc.) and define ranges for each measure that qualify as either success, tolerable performance, or failure for the player in question.

To be fair, different ranges and different measures will be used for different players and diverse positional groups. It isn't fair to hold Brandon Jennings up to the standards of Steve Nash or Derrick Rose, but is it fair to say he needs to be better than league averages for a PG to be considered a success? I will try to create reasonable starting points for a discussion and explain why I chose a certain number as a cutoff.

The meaning behind these numbers: Jennings is a bit of an odd case, because he often plays more like a combo scoring guard than he does a true point guard. Last season he declared a personal goal to average at least10 assists per game, but it just didn't happen. When operating at his optimum level, he is part scorer, part creator and part distributor. The hybrid nature of his skill set has led me to use a combination of league average efficiencies for point guards and shooting guards.

Positional averages for shooting efficiency tend to be pretty consistent year-to-year, so I jumped on hoopdata.com and looked up the average values at both positions for the last five seasons. I then used the lowest and highest average values to create thresholds for success, tolerable performance, and failure.

For example, here are the basic averages for FG% over the last 5 years.

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

Avg FG% PG

43.2

44

43.3

43.8

42.9

Avg FG% SG

43.9

44.1

44.1

43.5

44.2

I used the lowest overall average (42.9%) and the highest overall average (44.2) to mark the thresholds for success and failure. Simple enough, right? Since we can't know the actual season averages for the upcoming year in advance, this allows us to use the most reasonable values for our benchmarks. The basic idea for Jennings is that below average efficiency should be considered a failure, while anything above positional averages should be considered a success.

As the primary pick-and-roll ball handler for the Bucks, it seemed logical to create distribution benchmarks for efficiency and quality. In each case I looked at five years worth of league averages for starting PGs (all PGs w/ 30+ minutes per game in each season) and used the highest and lowest values to create thresholds for failure and success.

As you can see on the chart, his decision making (represented by AST:TO ratio) and his quality of creation for teammates (represented by AST leading to made FGs inside 10ft) have both been below average in comparison to other NBA starting PGs in his first two seasons. Again, it's time for him to make the leap. Independent of whatever he does shooting the ball, these are the next most important areas of contribution for Jennings, so all I am saying is that anything above league average would be a success. There's nothing unfair about that, right?

The defensive component is much more subject and open to fan input, but I feel as if Jennings has been feisty and energetic enough to merit success from the eye test standpoint in his first two years. As for the counterpart data, the use of positional averages for regular point guards made the most sense because Jennings played most of his minutes at the point and nearly always matched up against the opponent's primary ball-handler. If he held his counterparts to anything below their league average PER in past seasons, it was considered a success. The same rules will be applied going forward.

Take your time to absorb the format and the expectations I have set for Jennings, and then give your thoughts in the comments. The next post will cover the remaining starters, and then it will be on to the top role players. If you have suggestions for what measures to use for benchmarks with respect to any remaining players on the roster, feel free to pass along your thoughts in the comments and we can talk them out as a group.


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