(Editor’s Note: To kickoff our coverage of the 2015-16 NBA season, we’re profiling the most intriguing player of all 30 NBA teams. What makes them intriguing? It could be their talent, quirkiness or the unknown, it doesn’t matter. Follow The NBA’s 30 Men of Intrigue series here with us at TSFJ, as our friends and family join us for another awesome basketball campaign.)
Brandon Jennings (aka Double Nickel)
2014-15 Detroit Pistons: 32-50
We chose Brandon Jennings because not only has he been one of the most fascinating players since his high school days — skipping college to play a year in Europe before declaring for the NBA Draft — but he also was playing the best basketball of his career before a ruptured Achilles ended his season.
The case of Brandon Jennings may be the most fascinating scenario in the entire NBA. Why? Because last season, Brandon Jennings made the leap from talented scoring point guard to legitimate floor general. His numbers were not eye-popping — 15.4 points, 6.6 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals — but it was without question the most efficient he’s ever been in his all-around game. He shot over 40 percent from the field for only the second time in his career, including 36 percent from three and a career-high 83.9 percent from the line, and he was the impetus for Detroit’s turnaround after a horrid start.
Following Christmas, the Pistons went on a tear, winning seven in a row from Dec. 26-Jan. 7, and continuing that pace for a month. From the day after Christmas until Jan. 21, the team went a blistering 12-3, with Jennings averaging 20 points, 7.2 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals during that stretch while shooting 44 percent form the field, 40.4 percent from three and 82.8 percent from the line.
But then, just when Jennings was playing the best basketball of his career and the Pistons were surging into playoff contention, Jennings ruptured his Achilles tendon, ending his season just like that. To compound the situation, less than a month later, Detroit traded for the disgruntled Reggie Jackson, the backup point guard who was tired of living in the shadow of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, a la some guy with a beard down in Houston.
Once Jennings went out, the Pistons deflated, and now the future is cloudy for Jennings, who at the turn of the calendar looked to be Detroit’s point guard of the present and future. However, with the 25-year-old Jackson in tow and the 26-year-old Jennings coming off a major injury, is he even in Detroit’s plans any longer? And will he be the same player he was prior to the injury?
Signs are pointing to a big old questions mark right now. Trade rumors have swirled around Jennings, the latest having him sent to Phoenix in exchange for Markieff Morris so the latter is reunited with his twin brother Marcus in Detroit. Of course, with Eric Bledsoe firmly entrenched as Phoneix’s point guard, the fit seems odd there as well.
Personally, I’d like to see Jennings return to team with Andre Drummond once again, but who knows if he’ll have the same explosiveness that made him such a tough cover to begin with? And if he can’t come back fully healthy quickly, can Reggie Jackson fill the void better than he could last season? If so, he very well may push Jennings out the door sooner rather than later.
Everything really is up in the air at this point in regard to Brandon Jennings and his NBA future. Let’s hope he can recover quickly and pick up where he left off, because the NBA is a better place when Jennings is doing things like this:
When he’s right, Jennings make the Pistons go. It’s not coincidence that Andre Drummond has taken his development up another notch with Jennings as his running mate. The two play well off of one another, and the lightning-quick first step of Mr. Double-Nickel along with his driving ability opens up both opportunities and offensive rebound chances for Drummond.
Jennings showed exactly what he means to Detroit once he hit his stride, as the winning streak shows. He is, quite simply, better than Reggie Jackson. Or at least he was. But that may not be the case any longer, and it could mean the end of his time in Motown — though if he is to be traded, the Pistons may rue the day they went with the unproven Jackson sans his superstar teammates over another young point guard accustomed to moving a bad team forward.