The first time I ever saw Brandon Jennings play, he was already playing like a pro. That was a good and bad thing. One, he had the shot-making and the isolation skills to do work and hit shots from virtually anywhere on the court. It didn’t matter if he was 30 feet from the rim with five seconds on the shot clock. It didn’t matter if he was trapped in the corner. He was creative and skilled, almost too much for any 17-year-old.
It was at the Springfield Hoophall, perhaps the best high school tournament in the country. Jennings was the main event, and he didn’t disappoint, finishing with 30 and the game-winning jumper.
He was a senior at Oak Hill and in the midst of a record-breaking season, one that saw him take an otherwise mediocre Oak Hill team (at least for their standards) and turn it into one of the most talked-about squads in the nation. Jennings’ numbers as a senior – 32.7 points, 7.4 assists, and 5.1 rebounds – were ridiculous for someone who wasn’t a physical specimen. But that wasn’t what stood out about him. It was the way he conducted himself, the way he ran the point, the way he rained jumpers from deep. He had NBA moves, not an NBA body.
So far this summer, Jennings has either spent too much time running his mouth or is out putting in work, depending on your viewpoint. There are few players with his skill level that have similar doubters. We all know he’s good, but exactly how good is he? Is he starter good? Is he championship good? Is he All-Star good? If you go based off numbers, it would seem like he hasn’t improved since the first few months of his NBA career, when he was the talk of the league.
Jennings just turned 22. He’ll be entering his fourth year of professional basketball as both a trail blazer and an unknown. We still aren’t sure what he is. He’s talked about as much as any point guard, but is he on that level? He showed me he had the skills all the way back in high school. He can win any skill competition, hit any type of shot. But how good is he?
Jennings feels like a basketball natural: he dribbles so easily, shoots so freely that it can hinder his development. It feels like he should be better than a career 38 percent shooter. But then you see him shooting off-balance or not setting his feet or taking step-backs that most other players wouldn’t even attempt.
How One Player Is Changing The Game Forever. That’s what we coined on the cover of Dime #46. So far, neither his game or his decision to skip college and play overseas have really caught on. But as Jennings said earlier this summer, it’s time to get it going. If he’s going to develop into an All-Star, the time is now.
What does Jennings need to do to improve next season?
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