My response is twofold:
1. "Really? We’re already having this debate?"
And 2. "How in the world are the 5.6 million people in Wisconsin gonna make a reasonable argument in favor of the rookie?"
I mean, I understand the temptation to blow this one out of proportion. It’s the rookie point guard of an up-and-coming, young club versus the wily floor general for a perennial powerhouse.
It’s southpaw on righty, scoring machine versus assist machine, stringy and athletic 6-foot-1 guy on stringy and athletic 6-foot-1 guy. There will no doubt be fireworks when the two face off Tuesday night at the Garden.
But the debate, to this point, is still an insane one.
Jennings, to be sure, has impressed. The 20-year-old, who grew up in Compton, Calif., before spending a year balling in Italy, leads the Bucks in scoring at 21.3 points per game, and he matches incredible quickness with a mature sense of the floor.
But let’s be honest: Jennings’ fame mostly revolves around a 55-point outing in an early-November win over Golden State, the worst defensive team in the league (and perhaps of the decade).
Other than that, his game has, for the most part, consisted of shooting a lot and scoring enough to fill up the stat sheet. Jennings is shooting just 41 percent from the field in his rookie campaign, a problem when he’s using nearly 30 percent of his team’s possessions.
Which brings us to Rondo’s first point:
What Boston's young gun lacks in shooting range (Jennings doesn’t at all — he’s 45 percent from 3-point range), he makes up for with impeccable shot selection. How about 55 percent from the field? That is unheard of in the NBA among guards, especially guards just taller than 6 feet.
In fact, Rondo is 18th in the league in field-goal percentage, and there’s only one other guard on that list: Chris Paul.
I’ll generally take a guy who shoots 10 times, scores 11 and notches 10 dimes over one who takes 20 to score 21 and only manages 5.8 assists — especially when that guy is a point guard.
Rondo is, hands down, one of the best defensive point guards in the league. In fact, the 23-year-old leads the NBA in steals per game at 2.6.
Jennings? Not so much. Break down the performance of his opponents per 48 minutes against Rondo’s, and it becomes clear: Jennings’ opponents score more, at a higher percentage, and turn the ball over less.
In other words, if you want a point guard who’s efficient on offense and a stopper on defense, you’re going with Rondo.
3. Rondo’s a champion
This is perhaps the most important point. I know, you’re thinking this is unfair because Jennings plays for the Bucks, and Rondo plays for the Celtics.
But this point is less about the Green’s 2008 championship, and more about Rondo’s general nature. Take a look at his playoff statistics in 2009: 16.9 points, 9.8 assists, 9.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals.
He simply raises his level of play in big games and at key moments. On Thursday, his timely strip of Tony Parker in the closing minutes at San Antonio was a prime example. Just before that, he hit a key outside jumper to push Boston’s lead to six. Hit 'em when they count, right?
Jennings, meanwhile, doesn’t yet have that killer instinct. The Bucks are 2-7 on the road this season, and their floor general is a big part of the problem. Jennings’ line at the Bradley Center: 26 points per game on 47 percent shooting. Outside of Milwaukee: 16 points per game, 34 percent.
In other words, he’s still green. Jennings still has to learn to block out the crowd and play in the clutch. He still must become more consistent and learn when to shoot and when to pass. And he still has to grow as a defender.
Until then, this debate isn’t a debate at all.
Powered by WordPress.com VIP