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Bucks’ Brandon Jennings Looks Like the Real Deal

Before rookie Brandon Jennings was making headlines for the Milwaukee Bucks, he was making negative ones for himself leading up to the beginning of the 2009-10 NBA season.  Known by just about everyone because of his decision to skip college ball and play in Europe, Jennings had question marks all around him.  His upside was immense and GM’s knew that Jennings had the potential to be a franchise-changing player unlike the majority of the players in last year’s draft class.  However, they also knew his downside was investing money into a cancerous teammate who would repeat his lackluster performance in Rome.

Before Jennings could even step on the court he was back at it, firing his mouth away about then-teammate Ramon Sessions and Luke Ridnour.  On a radio show with rapper Joe Budden, he mentioned being upset with the Knicks passing on him and deeming himself the starter over Ridnour.  He also made headlines by calling out Ricky Rubio, saying he was “overrated” and not as good as Jennings after a workout with the Kings.

Bucks’ general manager John Hammond decided that the upside of Jennings was well worth the potential of failure and he selected him with the tenth overall pick in the draft.  His cockiness and swagger is something that, to an extent, all great basketball players need to have, and Hammond believed Jennings had that.

What Hammond most likely did not think Jennings had was the ability to average over 20 points per game in his first six games, racking up four wins for the Bucks.  In many ways, Jennings is looking like the savior that is going to save the Bucks.  Rumors have floated around that have the Bucks leaving Milwaukee, but Jennings could change all that.

His situation in Milwaukee this season is eerily similar to Derrick Rose’s last season in Chicago.  The Bulls had reached the playoffs in 2006 before winning just 33 games the next year.  When the Bulls defied lottery odds and were awarded the number one overall pick, they selected Rose and went on to win 41 games and make the playoffs.

In Chicago, Rose has seemingly rejuvenated the Bulls and made everyone around him better.  Joakim Noah is finally playing up to his potential that we all saw at Florida, Luol Deng is flourishing under Rose’s lead, and he has worked to mold rookies James Johnson and Taj Gibson into role players this season.  The talent was there for the Bulls as seen by the three straight playoff appearances before 2007, but the team was growing old and John Paxson’s inability to trade for grade-A superstars had the Bulls wondering where the future would take them.

Knicks Bucks Basketball

Brandon Jennings has flourished with the Bucks and his confidence could not be any higher. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

In the same sense, Jennings has done the exact same thing in Milwaukee.  The Bucks made the playoffs during the 2005-2006 campaign with rookie Andrew Bogut, but three years of injuries and inconsistency had left the Bucks with nothing to show for the talent they had.  Now, Jennings has utilized Bogut as the big man that every good point guard needs, and vice versa.

Six games into his young career might be a little early to start crowning him the savior for the Bucks, but in basketball more than any other sport, early starts become trends.  The great ones usually start that way and do not fade as compared to baseball and football.

His skill set is very raw and at times he plays like the rookie that he is.  He doesn’t seem to have picked up on the logistics of the offense yet and many times he will create for himself.  But with a big man that can shoot the outside shot, the way he moves off screens has to be considered close to the top of the league, and his closing speed while going to the basket warrants a replay on most possessions.

One of his big question marks coming into his rookie campaign was defense.  However, six games in he is averaging over a steal per game and limited Chauncey Billups to 6-16 shooting, gave up just one point to Chris Duhon, and forced Derrick Rose to commit five turnovers. No one will be forgetting about Chris Paul any time soon but positive returns this early in the season are always good.

Just about every aspect of his game is raw right now, but that can be a good thing, too.  Sometimes just letting players go out and be athletes can bring success and it seems like head coach Scott Skiles is letting Jennings do that for the most part.  It’s been an unbelievable start for a guy who, a year ago, was living out of a suitcase and traveling on a bus to foreign places in Italy to average under six points per game.

He’s got a long way to go, but Brandon Jennings is looking like the real deal.

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November 13, 2009 Posted by | Basketball, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA | , , | 4 Comments

Ten Most Intruiging Matchups on the Milwaukee Bucks’ Schedule

The 2009-2010 NBA schedules were released last week, and the Milwaukee Bucks received their list of 82 opponents of the regular season. The team went over a semi-makeover this off-season, getting rid of veterans Charlie Villanueva and Richard Jefferson and bringing in the young talent of Amir Johnson, Brandon Jennings, Jodie Meeks, and Hakim Warrick. Here’s a look at the ten most intriguing matchups that the Bucks will face this season in no particular order.

1. Saturday, October 31st – Detroit Pistons vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Charlie Villanueva will return to the Bradley Center in Milwaukee just two games into the season. Villanueva signed with the Pistons this offseason after not receiving a qualifying offer from the Bucks. Along with the additions of Ben Gordon and Ben Wallace, Villanueva and co. will look to spoil the Bucks’ home opener.

2. Friday, November 6th – Milwaukee Bucks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Just a week after the season opener, the Bucks will travel north to play the new look Timberwolves. Heading into this year’s NBA Draft, the talent at point guard was the topic of conversation as five point guards were selected in the first ten picks.

Brandon Jennings and Johnny Flynn will match up against each other very early on.

Brandon Jennings and Johnny Flynn will match up against each other very early on.

Three of those point guards will match up when Brandon Jennings faces Johnny Flynn and Ricky Rubio. Jennings will have the chance to prove to the Wolves that they made a mistake in passing on him, while Rubio and Flynn will show Scott Skiles and the Bucks why the Wolves were right.

3. Saturday, December 26th – San Antonio Spurs vs. Milwaukee Bucks

The day after Christmas, the Bucks will get their second taste of a former player in a new uniform when Richard Jefferson and the Spurs come to town. Traded for Fabricio Oberto, Bruce Bowen, and Kurt Thomas, Jefferson has now made the Spurs contenders again as he joins Tim Duncan and Tony Parker this year.

Jefferson spent just one year in Milwaukee but quickly become a fan favorite and was greatly counted on when Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut went down with season-ending injuries.

4. Friday, December 18th – Milwaukee Bucks vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Bucks will play the Cavs twice on the road (March 31st as well) in what should prove to be huge tests for the young Bucks team. Teamed up with Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James and the front-runner Cavaliers will look to bully the Bucks when they meet at “The Q”.

The Cavs lost just two times at home last year and should be up to more of the same with O’Neal in the lineup. The Bucks will also see an old friend in Mo Williams, who averaged almost 17 points per game against his former team last year.

5. Friday, March 12th – Utah Jazz vs. Milwaukee Bucks

You’re probably confused as to why this would be an interesting game, but Wesley Matthews was extended an offer to the Jazz’s veteran camp this summer and will have a chance to make the team this season.

Matthews, a four year player at Marquette University, was loved by many and called the Bradley Center home for every game played in Milwaukee.

You can bet that if Matthews makes the team there will be a huge fan base in attendance cheering him on. Just ten minutes away from campus, loads of people would come to the Bradley Center to cheer their man on.

6. Saturday, January 30th – Miami Heat vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Staying with the Marquette theme, former standout guard Dwyane Wade will visit the Bradley Center twice this year in his return to Milwaukee. In 2003, Wade led the Golden Eagles to their first Final Four appearance since winning the title in 1977, and has been a big supporter of Marquette ever since.

The matchup will be a tough one for the Bucks, who lost two of three games to the Heat last season. The game will also feature a pair of U.S.A. Redeem Team members in Michael Redd and Wade. Together, they helped Team U.S.A take home the gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

7. Friday, January 8th – Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks

The Illinois-Wisconsin rivalry continues when the Bulls come to town to square off in the third of four match ups between the two teams this season. The Bulls took three of four games last season from the Bucks, but with the loss of Ben Gordon the future is up in the air. Scott Skiles will also match up against his former team, as he coached the Bulls from 2003 to 2007.

Scott Skiles would love to win the season series against the Bulls this year.

Scott Skiles would love to win the season series against the Bulls this year.

8. Wednesday, December 16th – Los Angeles Lakers vs. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks will get their shot at the defending champs at home when the Lakers come to town in mid-December. Last year, Kobe Bryant put up 30 points, eight rebounds, and four assists at the Bradley Center as the Lakers won 104-98.

Milwaukee will look to get their revenge and will hopefully have Michael Redd this time around. Last year, Redd missed both matchups against Los Angeles and Andrew Bogut missed one. If the Bucks are at full strength, an upset could be in the cards.

9. Wednesday, November 25th – Milwaukee Bucks vs. New Orleans Hornets

If Brandon Jennings doesn’t get his first “Welcome to the NBA” moment within the first month of the season, he sure will when he visits Chris Paul and the Hornets.

One of the best, if not the best, point guards in the game, Paul will match up on Brandon Jennings and use his elusive quickness, speed, and strength to give Jennings a lesson on how to play the point in the NBA.

10. Tuesday, January 26th – Milwaukee Bucks vs. Dallas Mavericks

Last season, the Bucks put up a commanding 133 points against the Mavs in Dallas, and will look to do so again when the two teams match up.

The other storyline in the game is the mystery of what the Bucks’ franchise would look like had they not traded away Dirk Nowitzki. Drafted ninth overall in the 1998 Draft out of Germany by the Bucks, he was then traded to the Mavericks for Tractor Traylor.

Every time the Bucks play the Mavericks, it has to sting a little bit knowing what they gave up in the All Star power forward.

August 9, 2009 Posted by | Basketball, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA | , , , | Leave a comment

Milwaukee Bucks Sign Hakim Warrick, Make Three Other Moves

Friday was an extremely busy day for general manager John Hammond and the Milwaukee Bucks. Four moves made by the team made the 2009 season a little clearer.

The biggest move of the move day came when power forward Hakim Warrick agreed to a one-year deal with the Bucks, his agent Bill Duffy announced. The terms of the deal were not disclosed but the offer is expected to be more than $3 million.

The 27-year-old was the 19th overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft by the Memphis Grizzlies and spent all four years with them. In those four years, Warrick has averaged 10.2 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field to go along with 4.3 rebounds and 0.4 blocks.

This past season, Warrick achieved career highs in steals and rebounds, and saw himself much improved on the defensive end of things. Playing primarily in a back-up role, he will now have the chance to compete for a starting spot and see many more minutes than his average of just under 25 last season.

For a team running short on cap space as well as depth in the frontcourt, Warrick is a good find for the Bucks and will have major contributions this season. As it is for a lot of players on the Bucks, more playing time will give a few players a chance to shine (Joe Alexander, Amir Johnson, Brandon Jennings, Warrick) and show that their potential can be made into something bigger and better.

Somewhat bigger numbers should be expected from Warrick, but do not expect him to come in and light up the world. His small frame and inability to score on offense has hindered his game his whole career, and neither should change when he suits up for Milwaukee.

Hakim Warrick should see extended minutes in Milwaukee this year.

Hakim Warrick should see extended minutes in Milwaukee this year.

My predictions for the 6′9″ power forward are, dependant on Amir Johnson, averages of 12 points and six rebounds per contest. While he is good for the occasional outburst (31 points in a game against the 76ers this year), he is more of a role player and will hopefully play second fiddle to Johnson.

Along with the addition of Ersan Ilyasova, the power forward position is seeing a bit of a logjam but minutes should be available at the small forward position, where Warrick is also capable of playing.

An after-effect of the signing of Warrick is that it more than likely ended the era of Ramon Sessions in Milwaukee. General manager John Hammond has worked his tail off to get his team both competitive and underneath the luxury tax line, and with the signing of Warrick, he sits less than $3 million away from it.

With Brandon Jennings and Luke Ridnour manning the point guard duties, it was almost a sure bet that Sessions would not be back. The Knicks and Clippers have showed plenty of interest in Sessions and would be willing to pay more than the Bucks would want to match.

However, is Sessions does not get a multi-year contract that he is satisfied with, reports say he might be willing to sign a one year deal with the Bucks.

Other moves the Bucks made on Friday included the release of 13-year veteran Bruce Bowen. Bowen, who has spent the last eight seasons as a defensive stopper with the San Antonio Spurs, was part of the deal that him, Fabricio Oberto, and Kurt Thomas to Milwaukee in exchange for Richard Jefferson.

Bowen was set to make $4 million this upcoming year, and releasing him before Saturday saves the Milwaukee Bucks $2 million of that.

The Bucks also requested waivers on point guard Salim Stoudamire. After looking for a change of scenery from the Atlanta Hawks, where he spent the last three seasons, he never made it to a regular season game while on the Bucks.

He struggled in the Summer League, fighting for minutes with rookie Brandon Jennings, who stole the show.

The last deal of the busy Friday the Bucks made was a trade involving veteran Malik Allen, who was traded to the Denver Nuggets for shooting guard Sonny Weems and power forward Walter Sharpe. Weems is expected to be waived in the near future and Sharpe is a youngster with some potential.

The moves once again show John Hammond’s determination to keep the roster young and rebuild while the talent and potential blossoms.

August 3, 2009 Posted by | Basketball, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA | , , , | 1 Comment

Milwaukee Bucks Draft Review

The 2009 NBA Draft has come and gone with many picks that came as surprises (Minnesota selecting four PG’s) and some picks that did not (Blake Griffin to the Clippers).  Staying in the Midwest, let’s break down the Bucks and what they did last night to improve their team.

Milwaukee Bucks

First Round, 10th Overall: Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy

One of the biggest stories of this year’s draft was where Jennings would end up.  Having one of the biggest ceilings of any player in the draft made him an option as early as number four to the Sacramento Kings, but his decision to play in Europe instead of college, making him somewhat of an unknown, meant that there was a chance he slipped out of the lottery.

However, when the Bucks’ pick came around, Johnny Flynn, Ricky Rubio, Tyreke Evans, and Stephen Curry had already been selected.  Jennings was the next highest ranked point guard in front of the likes of Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, and Jeff Teague.

Why I Liked the Pick: Jennings’ stats in Europe (5.5 points, 1.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists in 17 minutes) do not reflect the kind of player he is.  His senior year at the prestigious Oak Hill Academy, Jennings set a school record for total points and scoring average in a single season.  This is the same high school that has had Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Josh Smith, and Rajan Rando attend, among others.

The Bucks are hoping Brandon Jennings will be the next big star to come out of Oak Hill Academy.

The Bucks are hoping Brandon Jennings will be the next big star to come out of Oak Hill Academy.

His best asset is his ability to score, giving the Bucks a scoring point guard that they lacked last year.  With a 37 inch vertical, Jennings’ athleticism was second to none in the draft which should make up for his lack of size (6’2″, 165 pounds).  Another one of Jennings’ traits is his ability to push the basketball and find open teammates.

He is a playmaker on offense and gives the Bucks a threat at the position every night.  His lightning quick speed makes it near impossible to stay in front of him and he is an excellent finisher at the hoop.  With Rubio and Flynn off the board, the Bucks took the player with the next biggest upside and a player that could be the steal of the draft as he becomes more polished.

Why I Didn’t Like The Pick: Jennings is a bit of a showboater and a “me-first” player which is not going to fly in Milwaukee.  It’s true that in the NBA, one needs to have an ego to succeed and keep up with the rest of the crowd, but if Jennings comes in with too big of a head, he will be in for a very quick and large reality check.

With Jrue Holiday still on the board, taking Jennings might be a questionable call.  The freshman from UCLA slipped all the way to the 17th pick but easily could have been swiped up by the Bucks.  Like Jennings, Holiday has tremendous upside and more of an NBA frame to build on.

Jennings is also very raw and might take a few years to develop, especially if he can not come in and shoot the ball well.  He needs a more consistent jump shot and needs to make better decisions on the court.  He has been in the spotlight his whole career, so he should be able to make the jump fairly easily.

Defensively, he will need to bulk up a bit more in order to play night in and night out against what will usually be a much bigger point guard (in terms of weight).  His scouting report says that he is a defensive gambler which could be a good thing if he perfects it.

Overall Breakdown: With Flynn and Jordan Hill off the board, Jennings was most likely at the top of the Bucks draft board.  It probably meant that Ramon Sessions has played his last game as a Milwaukee Buck, while management will likely begin negotiating with Charlie Villanueva.  Jennings has superstar potential if he can harness his ego, continue to work on his game, and become more consistent.  OVERALL GRADE: A-

Second Round, 41st Overall: Jodie Meeks, SG, Memphis

One of the group of players who was leaning towards pulling his name out of the draft before the deadline was Meeks.  With the number one recruiting class in the nation back at Kentucky, his senior year awaiting, and the chance to be a favorite for the National Championship, Meeks had many reasons to go back to school and see what could have been.

In the end, Meeks decided to stay in the draft and wound up on a rebuilding and improving Milwaukee Bucks squad.  With a potential future point guard already in the bag, the Bucks stayed in the backcourt and selected one of the purest shooters in the draft not named Stephen Curry.

Why I Liked The Pick: At number 41 overall, Meeks was excellent value for a Bucks team that was looking for the best player available and not neccesarily a need.  Last year, the Bucks ranked 18th in the league in bench scoring with 26.4 points per game and will likely get a boost with Meeks.

No one denies Jodie Meeks' ability to score.

No one denies Jodie Meeks' ability to score.

Despite being one-dimensional for the most part, that one dimension is the only thing Meeks will need to succeed in the NBA.  His long-range shooting was unbelievable this year as he averaged 23.8 points per game, good for eighth in all of college basketball.  Meeks is able to shoot from any spot on the floor and will give the Bucks an Eddie House-type player that can come off the bench and make up baskets.

Why I Didn’t Like The Pick: When looking at Meeks’ game, one could say that he is a poor man’s Michael Redd in the sense of other than scoring, he isn’t going to bring much on a given night.  With a guy like Chase Budinger still on the board who could potentially fill in as a replacement for Richard Jefferson, the pick seems questionable.

Charlie Bell will be back for the Bucks next year as a solid back-up shooting guard so the pick was hardly a need.

Overall Breakdown: Meeks was the best pure shooting guard left on the draft board and will be a scorer in the league.  I doubt he will ever be able to start just because he can’t do much other than shoot, but if he can be Eddie House for the Bucks, the pick will be worthwhile.  I just wonder if Budinger or Danny Green would have been a better decision.  OVERALL GRADE: B

June 26, 2009 Posted by | Basketball, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA, NBA Draft | , , | Leave a comment