Posted by: natehughart | June 6, 2009

Is Brandon Jennings the new “White Chocolate”?

Heh. No. Well, maybe? Let’s go through this.

Brandon Jennings

When Jason Williams came out of Florida, he was 23 years old and had bounced around a few colleges following Billy Donovan. So, in a sense, he was a bit of a flake, or a lot of one.

When the Kings had drafted J-Will, Chris Webber had been traded for, but not convinced he should come to Sacramento. (That didn’t happen when the Kings signed Vlade. It happened afterwards.) J-Will was already in tow, and that was without Vlade or Chris Webber guaranteed to come to Sactown.

But, C-Webb came, Vlade too, and some mouthpiece named Jon Barry came along also. (I don’t like JB if you can’t tell.)

(I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching that.)

Reading this article by Jonathan Givony of Draft Express (DX) talking about how weak the 2005 HS class was, and in hindsight, they agree it was fairly obvious.

Yet, at the same time, the 2004 HS class was very strong. The point here, among other things, is that some drafts, and classes, will not be as good as others. Some come across very strong (like the 2007 and 2008 NBA Draft classes), and others (like 2009) will not. That’s the nature of the beast. The good thing, unlike the past, is that the NCAA is not the sole developer of talent.

Onto Brandon Jennings. And, I suppose Ricky Rubio.

There are reasonable questions about both players, and questionable players about both.

Reasonable Questions about Rubio: How well he becomes as a shooter and finisher inside.

Rubio’s release is spotty, and he doesn’t really have the athleticism to finish inside at a high enough rate in the NBA unless he becomes a completely fluid player like Jason Kidd. (Young Jason Kidd, not old Jason Kidd.)

Jennings has issue’s finishing too, and shooting, but has considerably more quickness and athleticism than Rubio does. (If you merged them together, they would be the best point guard in the history of the NBA. Mesh Rubio’s size, wingspan, b-ball IQ, passing instincts and his attitude with Jennings quickness, ahtleticism, and attitude. Stupid I know, but I love both players really.)

On talent alone you might be able to argue that Jennings is one of the most athletic players in the draft regardless of position. Griffin is usually mentioned here as the best, but Jennings physical tools are all there too. (Griffin essentially is missing one tool while having all the others. In more than a few ways, he lucked out going to the Clippers.) DeMar DeRozan is considered another top athlete in this draft. Check out the measurement’s history if you like. (Jennings and Rubio both aren’t listed, though.)

Let me put this another way. Jennings is a PG. Among these guys whom the Kings will (or may) have a chance to consider, it’s very easy to argue Jennings physical attributes over the other players that will (or may) be available at 4: Tyreke Evans (shorter and less of a wingspan, but quicker and more athletic), Jrue Holiday (shorter but has a similar wingspan but quicker and more athletic), Stephen Curry (probably the same size but has a longer wingspan, but quicker and more athletic) among others.

Okay, here’s a more important point. Jennings is only going to be 20. He’s got thick skin too. You have to when you jump from Oak Hill Academy to Roma Lottomatica. He changed some of his AAU habits, and worked on his game (like his jump shot).

Recently he’s taken a ton of hits for not attending the Reebok Treviso camp. This was largely because teams wanted to see him in 5 on 5 action. My question is why? If Rubio, Llull, Casspi, and Claver aren’t attending, and minus LLull, the other 3 are potential 1st round picks, what does Jennings get by playing against players who aren’t as good as he is? The Painted Area has a very good take on all of this. When M Haubs (of the Painted Area) posted the piece on Jennings, the rosters of the Reebok Eurocamp hadn’t been released yet.

I agree, that without the studs of the class not being there, I’m not sure you can see things in that 5 on 5 competition that you can’t in a 3 on 3 workout. That’s probably why his agent didn’t make him go through it. They recognized that most of these players are not going through the scrutiny that Jennings is, and that eventually it would fade.

Right now Givony has Jennings 13th on the mock draft. In this draft, Indiana would be lucky to get him.

Personally, it would have been a good idea for him to go, but I think a lot of teams are just too nervous about him. I think the Kings would be as well. It’s hard not to be nervous considering the stakes involved.

*****

None of this probably matters. Geoff Petrie tends to draft whom he wants anyway. So, in a sense, this is always going to be me venting when I write something of this nature. (He probably wouldn’t read this even if someone on the Kings staff does.) My only hope here is that people see why I’m coming from when I’m coming from.

If you’re aren’t aware of how long I’ve stumped the Rubio wagon, well, then, you obviously haven’t read anything I’ve written in the past.

Would I want the Kings to give up anything to get Rubio? Not really, no. I think there is just as great a chance you could get the best player at 4 as you could get at 1. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, why should there be?

Most of the crooning on Draft Lottery day was how the Kings got screwed. I know better. So do people once their heads cool off. (I can’t point fingers. I bitched, moaned, and whined days after Spencer Hawes was picked. Then, I was resigned to see how it plays out.) The Kings are in a fine position. They would be better off at 2 yes, but I also think that the 2010 draft class may be their redemption. They may get lucky next year with a real franchise player to build around. Mouthing off about bad luck does nothing. Making your own play work for you does.

2005: The top 4 picks are Andrew Bogut, Marvin Williams, Deron Williams and Chris Paul.
2006: The top 4 picks are Andrea Bargnani, LaMarcus Aldridge, Adam Morrison, and Tyrus Thomas.
2007: The top 4 picks are Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Al Horford, and Mike Conley Jr.
2008: The top 4 picks are Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, OJ Mayo, and Russell Westbrook.

Still wanna cry? Let’s rank these players in order. Chris Paul is easily the best. Deron Williams is also easily #2 here. Adam Morrison is easily the worst. After that, it gets difficult.

Here would be my list: Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andrew Bogut, Al Horford, Marvin Williams, Andrea Bargnani, Russell Westbrook (although he’s likely to move up several spots on this list), Greg Oden (ditto as Westbrook–ranking as current accomplishments), OJ Mayo, Michael Beasley (again he could jump up if he becomes a terrific 3 which he could be), Mike Conley Jr, Tyrus Thomas and Adam Morrison.

Side Note: Read this terrific (and the comment by Scotter that is green) writeup about Tyrus Thomas on Blog-A-Bull.

That list is pretty subjective isn’t it? The only real “All-Stars” on that list are Paul, Williams, Durant, Rose, and to an extent, Aldridge and Bogut (when healthy).

Isn’t there a lil bit of irony that among players 1-4, Paul was drafted 4th overall in 2005, Williams 3rd overall in 2005, Rose 1st overall in 2008, and Durant 2nd in 2007?

The point here is that the NBA Draft works in cycles. The point here is that players tend to be overrated, or underrated, for certain reasons.

Would I love the Kings having the 2nd overall pick here? Sure, because it creates trading options. Especially if they were looking to trade down and get Jennings. They can still do that with the 4th overall pick I suppose. Although, it becomes more dicey to do so. And, then, why save that kind of money when you don’t have to? Is there really an advantage, to say, trade the 4th pick for the 7th overall?

History says height doesn’t matter in the NBA as much as some think it does. (Notice I never criticized Blake Griffin’s height. I criticized his WINGSPAN.)

None of this is to say I’m changing my opinion on Rubio. I’ve always known his athleticism/finishing inside/jumpshot were issue’s. I never questioned they weren’t. (Or, I never did watching him. I don’t know if that came across, but I’ve always believed it was an issue. I also believe it’s not a major issue if you’re the Kings.)

It’s just that I’d be shocked if the Kings even had a shot to pick him. Why trade up? The demands are going to be too high.

Brandon Jennings has made some errors. He believes he shouldn’t have gone to Rome because he didn’t play enough. (NBA teams are grumbling about that too.)

Or hell, even watch this.

Now you’ve watched the 2 mixtapes from the McDonalds/Jordan Classic games, then watch how Jennings plays in Italy. They are 2 different players. Now, what if you could merge them both? That is the 3 million dollar question, si?

That is one game against Tau Ceramica, Tiago Splitter’s team.

I’ll link the game of Rubio vs Jennings that a Sactown Royalty poster put up. (I’m going to watch that again. But, fair warning that you will have to download the Veoh player to watch the whole game.)

Here is Lang Whitaker’s, of SLAM, writeup of the game.

Also, Jennings, even though he does pattern some of his game around Allen Iverson, he lists his 5 favorite PG’s as: Magic Johnson (shocking–a kid from LA adoring Magic?), Jason Kidd (shocked I tell you; it doesn’t hurt Kidd is from Oakland either IMO), John Stockton (I am genuinely shocked), Steve Nash (shocked a little, but not too much), and Jerry West (a little shocked, but again, West is a legend in LA). What’s shocking is how unlike Allen Iverson is compared to any of these guys (especially Magic, West and Stockton).

It was not all fun & games for Jennings over there either. He wasn’t always paid on time, for instance.

Yet, he managed to write this after the deal was done on May 28th (this would be 10 days ago):

I cannot express how exciting and special this season and year has been for me. The people of Rome and the people of the Lottomatica Roma organization – the entire staff, my coaches and my teammates – welcomed me, along with my mother and brother, with open arms. Coming here has allowed me to mature both on and off the court and I greatly appreciate the help and support of everyone around me. This experience provided me with the right foundation for the next chapter in my life. I am especially grateful for the guidance of my general manager, Dejan Bodiroga, my team president, Claudio Toti and of course, my head coach, Nando Gentile.

In case any of you were wondering if I know who Dejan Bodiroga is, I’ll get to that part in a minute. (Yes, I have a thought about that too.) The point I really want to make here is that despite not getting paid, or the minutes he would have preferred, he did end up becoming capable of being a better player than he had if he stayed playing more or less an AAU style of ball at Arizona, another university or some JC in bumfuck nowhere.

The point? He took his share of hits, and he’s still standing. His stats won’t overwhelm you, and scouts/teams are complaining (as I wrote up top) they haven’t seen him enough in 5 on 5 competition. Uh huh, right.

Moving on.

I mention Bodiroga, who happened to be the 51st overall pick of the 1995 draft, and it was made by one Geoff Petrie. (Yes, I knew some of you remember. I also know some of you don’t.) The point is that there is a connection, and a chance for Petrie to show European basketball could help shape a kid who isn’t quite what the NBA wants, by letting him play in Europe for a year or two at the highest levels. Jennings showed all his physical attributes, but he was also exposed. It was helpful. If there’s anybody who could get to Bodiroga and ask Jennings about how hard he worked on his game, and everything else, it’s Petrie right?

Bodiroga was a cousin of Drazen Petrovich’s, and probably has a close enough tie’s with Peja Stojakovic. Bodiroga is a legend of European Basketball. I repeat: Legend. (Watch this video if you dare. It just shows a clip of the 50 “greatest” contributors. There are a lot of recognizable names. Even more so if you have followed the game intensely for a long time.)

In a lot of ways, if Jennings had succeeded in Europe, the Kings most likely couldn’t get him at 4. The Clippers would take him 1st overall without any questions. He’s athletic, long, and would have proven he could run a team at the highest level of Italy. His stock would have risen that high. He is that very talented. (That’s what Roma was really hoping for. It just never happened. Oh well.)

Yet, at the same time, the fact he failed, the fact he’s being questioned over not going to Eurocamp in Treviso, and whatnot, only helps the Kings here. Can you really argue with so many players being viewed as having similar talent levels, that it’s really a reach to take Jennings at 4th overall? As true as this would be if Rubio wasn’t available, I could make the same argument with Rubio being there. (Rubio won’t be. He’ll either pull out or Memphis/OKC will take him.)

My point is simple. Even though Tyreke Evans has special qualities (gets to the bucket, long, big, works hard, seems to have a good attitude), and is everything you could want in a kid, he hasn’t faced the level of scrutiny Jennings has. He hasn’t played against the level of competition that Jennings has on his own team let alone against opponents. Jennings had to work at one of the highest levels of basketball competition in the world to get minutes. Evans got them because players of his (and Jennings) caliber get those minutes because coaches need to win at the NCAA level.

Jennings coaches didn’t have to play him to win the game. Isn’t that pretty similar to what happens in the NBA?

Yes, Jennings has had issue’s with various area’s of his game. And, Evans doesn’t? Griffin doesn’t? Rubio doesn’t? Name me the perfect prospect with the least amount of flaws in this draft, and I’ll tell you you’re wrong. That guy would be picked 1st, and we wouldn’t question it. That player doesn’t exist.

Which brings me back to the most important point: This may be a blessing in disguise. Jennings is not an unmitigated disaster (no matter how it’s being reported to be) by working out. He can show some similar things (especially if he’s willing to work out with Evans–which wouldn’t happen but I’m just making a point) during the workouts. I hope the Kings bring Jennings in if for nothing else to rule him out.

I don’t want to hear about why Jennings stats don’t look good. (I already know why.) He was playing professionally. He got exposed (somewhat) to what happens in professional leagues. He was competing against older grown men who already have gone well past the point he is currently traveling. Yet, no-one is assassinating his character like they were earlier in the season. It’s been tested, and he passed. Now, it’s how he conducts himself in draft workout’s.

Oh, and for those who think it’s a big deal whether or not Jennings participated in the pre-draft combine, Jason Thompson didn’t participate either.

How did that work out again?

Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Be afraid of the unknown that you aren’t aware of. If the Kings are unaware of Jennings, and didn’t watch his games during the season, the scouting staff should be fired. You keep tabs on all top prospects, and Jennings is one, right? If M Haubs can watch Jennings play on his house TV, why can’t the Kings scouting staff?

I recognize that you can see things playing 5 on 5 live that you can’t on TV. But, really, with Jennings in particular (unlike Rubio who has many intangibles listed as strength’s), does it really make that much of a difference? You can pretty much see live what you could on TV. When he runs offense, he does. When he explodes to the hoop, you can see it.

That’s why I discount, on more thought, why it’s not as important that Jennings didn’t go to Treviso. This is not to say he doesn’t have to wow people at his workout’s, because he will. But, if there is one guy who could do well at these types of drills, it’s Jennings right? The only thing that usually diminishes players like Jennings’ athleticism is age and bad injuries. He hasn’t had either one happen yet, right?

Even though it’s probably not something that Kings fan can get behind today, it’s probably wise to steel yourself for the possibility that the Kings could take Brandon Jennings off the board at 4. It’s also easily possible that the Wolves entice OKC to trade down by swapping their 18th and 6th pick for the 3rd overall.

Which means that without Rubio or Evans, you’re going to be looking at a Jrue Holiday or Brandon Jennings. Both have serious question marks, and both have serious abilities. I always like a player with physical tools with something to prove. Jennings has some mental game, and has spent some of the season working on his game.

One other thing before I wrap this up. I think if the Kings take Jennings or Evans depends on which coach they have. Can you imagine Rambis having the patience with Jennings that Westphal will? Maybe Rambis won’t care, but I could easily see Rambis preferring Evans if he has the choice. I can see Westphal going either way, but the difference is that Westphal has coached a bigger (but slower less athletic) Gary Payton and a quicker more athletic Kevin Johnson in his 2 previous coaching stints. Isn’t it easier to imagine any young G the Kings take with that 4th overall pick (and it’s likely to be Evans or Jennings or Holiday) working with Westphal a bit easier?

That’s why I think if it’s Westphal the Kings will lean towards Jennings if he works out well. If it’s Rambis I think they will lean toward Evans simply because he may fit in Rambis’ core philosophy far better. I also think that Jrue Holiday’s stock should rise if this happens as well.

Needless to say, I think that a coaches style plays a huge part in what type of players teams take on, and while Petrie might pick a Jennings over Rambis’ objection (if that kind of thing happens), this only puts the team in the same situation that the franchise was in with Musselman (with Douby) and Theus/Natt (with Douby/Shawes/JT/Greene).

Can the Kings afford to take that risk? Or, maybe I’m overlooking something about Rambis here, which is always very possible.

******

Mainly I wanted to point out that Brandon Jennings is not all bad. He’s a flashy, capable, athletic PG with length and exciting maneuvers in the open court. It would be fun to see a 2nd unit this season with Cisco, Donte, and whomever else the Kings might pick in the draft (like Gani Lawal or Derrick Brown) along with Jennings.

Excitement. Jennings can provide that. Yes, Young Money doesn’t jump out at you (especially if you compare his inflated AAU stats at Dominguez and Oak Hill), but if you look at Rubio’s shooting stats, they don’t jump out either. (They’re just as bad as Jennings.)

(Do yourself a favor and look at Jennings and Rubio’s listed weaknesses on DX.)

Brandon Jennings

Do not fear what the Kings would do with a potential talent. Fear the way they evaluate that particular player, and how they see it fitting in with whomever the new head coach may be.

That is the point, even if took 5000 words to get there.

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Responses

  1. [...] I ask again, as I did yesterday in my long winded monstrosity, how does dominating Rodrigue Beaubois or Patty Mills help his draft stock? Even with Jennings not going to Eurocamp, Givony has Young Money listed at 13th going to Indiana right now. Rodrigue Beaubois is slated 30th going to Cleveland, and Patty Mills 31st going to Sacramento. (No one else who is a 1st round pick is in Eurocamp either.) [...]

  2. [...] Here is my take to Westphal with regards to a potential draft pick, Brandon Jennings. [...]

  3. Brilliant, brilliant… I wrote the same four things at StR, but they seem to be in concord with your article, so I will repeat them.

    1. Jennings shares actually much more with J-Will than Rubio does, although Rubio has been often criticized for the seeming resemblance with J-Will’s game. On the other hand, the resemblance with J-Will is probably just irrelevant issue, anyway.

    2. Jennings is among players in this draft who __might__ be serious difference-makers in the league (Rubio is another one)

    3. I prefer Rubio over Jennings, but

    4. There’s no sense to trade up to get Rubio if Jennings will be still probably available at four. Only if this was straight swap for financial reasons (budget of Memphis, Rubio’s buyout…). Either player is fine, however.

    Really great article, I have managed to see quite few games with Jennings this year and have been mostly disappointed. On the other hand, the talent (including the collective game of basketball) is clearly there. He will need quite a lot of time to get to the next level, probably more than Rubio will. I am not sure how much will NBA help towards this as compared to how much he would receive in the college or from another year in Europe. And he might actually never break out, but still is worthy of risk at four, especially with the current Kings roster

    • Yeah Kffce, Jennings is the ultimate risk/reward type of deal. I understand why people prefer Rubio over Jennings, and if things were equal, and they aren’t (not to mention when are they?), it doesn’t make much sense to trade up for Rubio when you have so many other talented players at the position that you can simply grab at 4 (or even perhaps trade down).

      Thanks for reading KFfce. Always appreciated.


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