The Detroit Pistons have been anything but quiet this off-season. They have a new head coach in Maurice Cheeks, signed free agent small forward Josh Smith from Atlanta, and orchestrated the return of one of Motown’s favorite sons, Chauncey Billups. The most talked about move, however, is the sign-and-trade deal that brought uber-talented point guard Brandon Jennings into the fold. Is Jennings a legitimate MVP candidate for the 2013-14 season? Let’s take a look…
There is an obvious upgrade in the supporting pieces in Detroit over Jennings’ Milwaukee digs. In a starting lineup consisting of Jennings, shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (possibly Kyle Singler), center Greg Monroe, Smith, and power forward Andre Drummond – Detroit may have found a nucleus of talent capable of making them a playoff team for years to come. In Milwaukee, Jennings only real secondary-scoring option was Monta Ellis. In Detroit, however, Jennings has all the above mentioned hands to dish the rock to. His life as a point guard got appreciably easier by crossing Lake Michigan.
With Detroit, Jennings has reliable low-post options in Monroe and Smith (and with a little progression, Drummond) who are capable of scoring and facilitating. The pick-and-roll should be a thing of beauty for the Pistons this season. Similarly, Jennings will have a capable spot-up shooter at his side – whether it be Caldwell-Pope, Singler, or, at times, Chauncey Billups. Expect modest bumps in scoring, assists, and maybe even boards for Jennings as a result.
Couple all this with the potential mentoring afforded Jennings by “Mr. Big Shot” Chauncey Billups, and we might just see the blossoming of a true NBA star.
The biggest obstacle to an MVP season for Brandon Jennings might just be his yet-to-be-defined role in the Motor City.
Detroit’s exhibition opener against Maccabi Haifa on October 8 saw Jennings start alongside Chauncey Billups. That said, it is unlikely both point guards will start come the regular season. Despite his youth and talent, coach Cheeks has not committed to Jennings as his starting 1-guard. There has been talk of bringing him off the bench to start the season.
Obviously, not many MVPs are also regarded as “6th man.”
Another issue that vexes fans and hopefuls alike is the shot selection (or lack thereof) exhibited by Jennings during the course of his four year career. Last season, he missed an average of nearly 9.5 shots per game while shooting a paltry 40.6% from the field. His career FT% hovers right around 80%. Clearly, some improvement on these percentages is in order if the letters MVP are to appear on Jennings’ resume. On the other hand, one silver lining might just be his 3-point shooting: 32% of his shots came from behind the arc, 36% of those shots he nailed.
Brandon Jennings brings instant credibility to Detroit basketball. The revamped lineup headlined by the new point guard all but guarantees a playoff berth for the Motor City Hoopsters. The upgraded talent around him all but guarantees a modest spike in almost all statistical categories for Jennings.
Provided he can snag a starting gig and improve upon his shot selection, Brandon Jennings might prove to be the NBA’s most improved player and maybe even establish himself as a justifiable MVP candidate.