Excuse anybody for being a little skeptical about Brandon Jennings at this point in his career.
The mercurial guard was labeled a gunner during his four seasons witht he Bucks after averaging 17.0 points per game and shooting 39.4 percent from the floor. When the Bucks traded him to the Pistons for Brandon Knight, it felt more like one team giving up on the young player than Jennings get a fresh start.
Jennings was getting that for sure on a young, hungry Pistons team with Josh Smith freshly signed as a free agent and the low-post duo of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond patrolling the paint. This team had some inside presence and Jennings was to be the outside presence.
Detroit's record has been very disappointing. The Pistons are 17-27, one game back of the final Playoff spot, and lack an identity.
It is still unclear how much you can blame that on Jennings or the Pistons' mis-matched roster that has Smith playing at small forward too much.
One thing that seems clear is that Jennings has his best opportunity to prove he can be a solid contributor. And while the big post players have to find a way to fit together — and 41 games in, that is still a work in progress — Jennings has been going about things the way he always has, just with those pieces around him that should give him more space to operate.
"He's learned to play off others, that's for sure," Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said. "He's learned to be a little more efficient in that area, putting that ball in there, realizing that if we scorei n the paint, it's going to open up a little bit more [for him]."
Things were supposed to open up for Jennings with all these weapons around him. This was perhaps the most offensively talented team Jennings had been around. The Pistons certainly had high expectations for this team that have crumbled somewhat as the team has fallen to 17-27, a game out of the final Playoff spot.
Jennings started the year solidly with some whispers that he could be an outside candidate for an All-Star bid. Now, though, he has fallen back hard to his career averages. He is posting 16.9 points per game and shooting 37.8 percent from beyond the arc with a usage rate just greater than 24 percent.
The only thing Jennings has really improven upon is his assists — up to 8.2 per game. That is certainly because of the weapons around him.
This has been Jennings' problem throughout his short career. He has never been able to score efficiently. That has held him back from fulfilling his large talent potential. That has not helped him in his new start in the Motor City.