The starting center for the Bucks is Samuel Dalembert, but the second-most used lineup by head coach, Scott Skiles, and the most popular one featuring Sanders, doesn’t have Jennings involved; with this lineup, Monta Ellis plays the point while Jennings sits, and if there’s anyone worse at defense than Jennings, it’s Ellis. Per 82games.com, the Bucks give up 107.0 points per possession with Ellis on the court (good for 28th in the league), and 95.3 points per possession when he’s off (which would be the best defense in the league). But that lineup has still outscored their opponents on the year. As has one featuring Jennings instead of Ellis, and with the same supporting cast of Beno Udrih as the other guard, Dunleavy as the small forward, Sanders as the power forward, and Ekpe Udoh as the Center. In fact, the two most successful lineups this year are those involving those four and either Ellis or Jennings.
When Skiles uses both Jennings and Ellis in the backcourt, like the Bucks do to start the game (putting Dalembert, Tobias Harris, and Ersan Ilyasova in the front court), and like Skiles has done with their most used line-up, they’re not as successful. When your entire backcourt is just begging to be taken advantage of defensively, you have to keep either Jennings or Ellis off the court. When your best frontcourt defender is just as much of an offensive liability, you have to make sure you have scorers on the floor when he’s patrolling the paint. In a perfect world, Sanders and Jennings/Ellis would cancel each other out, and you’d have a perfectly aligned team where teammates cover up one another’s inefficiencies. If Skiles were smart, he’d make sure he only played lineups featuring either Ellis OR Jennings, and Sanders. But Sanders might not be ready to handle the workload — not to mention see the ball that often — and the egos of both Ellis and Jennings wouldn’t react well to coming off the bench and splitting 24 minutes a night.
And so we beat on, Bucks against the current (of data), borne back ceaselessly into the past. Except, the green light Gatsby saw flashing at the end of the dock is, for Jennings and Ellis, just another signal telling them to take another mid-range jumper.
Can Jennings and Sanders realistically fix their flaws this season?
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