What should we make of Brandon Jennings?
The last two seasons I've owned a piece of Jennings, and after watching him fail to surpass 40-percent shooting from the field I let him be someone else's headache this season. But after his play this season, moreso recently, I'm beginning to wonder if I jumped ship too quickly. Let's start from the beginning.
When Jennings was arguably the best high school prospect in the 2008 class, he opted to play in Italy instead of enrolling in college. This marked the first time a player elected to play overseas professionally as opposed to attending college. Under NBA rules, a player has to be at least 19 and more than a year removed from high school to enter the draft.
After signing with Italian club Lottomatica Roma, he went on to a less-than-stellar season with the club, averaging less than 20 minutes per game. His playing time was a result of a lack of success on the court where he struggled with his shot and did not adjust well to the style of play in Italy. His draft stock dropped, and he was picked by the Bucks with the 10th overall selection in 2009. Since his arrival in Milwaukee, Jennings has looked like the same player with a lot of hype coming out of high school mixed with shooting droughts that were common in Italy. So what should we think of him from a fantasy perspective?
From a negative perspective, his shooting is still a concern for fantasy owners. While he's improved each season and is now shooting 40.6 percent from the floor, up from 37.1 percent his rookie season, it's still a category killer. Considering Jennings takes 17.1 shots per game, he had the ability to kill a fantasy owner's field-goal percentage the way Dwight Howard can kill free-throw percentage. The stats say Jennings hasn't improved much as a distributor, averaging the same 5.7 assists per game he did his rookie season. From the free-throw line he's regressed going from 81.7 percent to 80.9 percent to 78.6 percent. While that isn't a ton of regression, one would think an improvement from a point guard would be in store by year three in the Association.
Let's look on the other side of the coin and why I'm slowly coming around to getting back on the Brandon bandwagon. First, with all the high school/Italy/college hoopla, I think it get lost that he's only 22. There's a ton of upside and pedigree here, and there's an argument given his age that he'd be in the top-20 players if you had to pick someone with which to start a franchise from scratch. While his assists haven't increased, it's not like he's had another superstar alongside him, especially this season. His field-goal percentage hasn't increased significantly from his rookie season, but his current 40.6 percent isn't too far off Kobe Bryant's 43.5 percent. While his three-point percentage isn't anything fantastic (34.5 percent), he contributes heavily to the three-pointer category. His 92 threes made is third in the league (one behind Deron Williams) and his 44.1-percent shooting on two-pointers is the highest of his three-year career.
Jennings also has the potential to finish the season strong and carry it over to next season. In his first seven March games, he averaged 25.0 points (on 43.4 percent shooting), 7.1 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 threes made and 1.3 steals. If he can continue to show growth through the end of the season, he should be a name to remember once the top-30 players are off the board.
Each week we'll look at players who have received increased minutes. An uptick in minutes doesn't always translate into improved fantasy stats but it at least offers some players to put on the radar.
Mike Dunleavy, F, MIL – Besides Brandon Jennings, Dunleavy has a lot do with the Bucks owning the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference (albeit at an 18-24 record). Dunleavy has played at least 30 minutes in each of his last eight games and responded with nice average stats across the board: 15.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, two three-pointers made and 1.3 steals while shooting a perfect 18-for-18 from the charity stripe. Dunleavy has had his share of injury concerns in the past but is a solid option if he can continue to log heavy minutes, especially those in leagues requiring a small forward.
Jordan Farmar, G, NJ – Farmar has filled in nicely for the injured Deron Williams the last two games, totaling 35 points and 11 assists. Williams is day-to-day with his calf injury, though the potential arrival of Dwight Howard could hurry his return to the lineup. There's also the chance the Nets don't make a deal for Howard and eventually eliminate themselves from playoff consideration. In that case, it's possible Williams doesn't risk further injury and remains out for an extended time the next six weeks. If so, Farmar (who's shooting a career-high 44.9 percent this season) would be a nice add in most formats.
Zaza Pachulia, C, Marvin Williams, F, ATL – While it's obvious that players like Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Jeff Teague are largely owned in most leagues, it's possible that Williams and/or Pachulia are both available. If you're desperate enough in weekly leagues, they're not bad pickups considering they'll get five starts for the next scoring period. Look at your starters with only three games next week and determine whether it's worth adding either Hawk.
Each week we'll look at players who can help your fantasy team in the standard nine categories. Remember, while each player highlighted can help in a certain category, there's no guarantee he will contribute in other areas.
Jason Maxiell, F, DET – While his career has been mired in bouts of inconsistency, Maxiell has played better recently and should be on your fantasy radar. Before an eight-point, four-rebound dud Monday night he had four straight games of double digits while averaging 8.3 rebounds. As a result he's been rewarded with more minutes as his 28 minutes per game in March is the most in any month of the season. If he can continue to get those minutes and be productive on the offensive end he should be close to a nightly double-double threat.
Jerryd Bayless, G, TOR – While everyone tried to snag Goran Dragic over the weekend after news of Kyle Lowry's bacterial infection, there may be a second chance in the near future to grab Jerryd Bayless for point-guard help. The former Arizona standout started Monday night with Jose Calderon dealing with a bum ankle and responded with 16 points and six assists. Calderon's injury isn't believed to be bad, but ankle sprains tend to reoccur and the Raptors aren't likely to have a shot at the playoffs. Given that, plus Calderon being a little banged up, Bayless could get more run down the home stretch. Last season he had success as a starter and has games of 12, 15 and 18 points within the last 10 days.
J.J. Barea, G, MIN – With the season-ending knee injury to Ricky Rubio the point-guard position in Minnesota will be left to Barea and Luke Ridnour. Ridnour was another player instantly scooped up in most leagues last week once speculation arose that Rubio was done for the season and likely isn't available. Barea, who has been in and out of the lineup due to injury, is likely sitting on your waiver wire. Barea showed some scoring upside last season with Dallas and his eight dimes in 15 minutes Monday night indicate his ability to find the open man. Ridnour remains the starter, but the four-year deal given to Barea coupled with Ridnour trade rumors before the Rubio injury might tell which direction the Wolves want to go between the two. At the very least, keep an eye on the point-guard situation in Minnesota to see how the playing time is distributed.
Always check your league's eligibility rules to make sure a player qualifies.
Dominic McGuire, GS – Now eligible at guard
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