NBA

The Downfall of Brandon Jennings

07 February 2010:Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings reacts after being called for a foul on Indiana Pacers guard Mike Dunleavy in the forth quarter of a NBA game at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Bucks defeated the Pacers 93-81.
Allen Fredrickson/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

Brandon Jennings was supposed to be a star. He was ranked number 1 in his 2008 high school class by ESPN. Jennings was ahead of Kemba Walker, DeMar DeRozan, and Jrue Holiday. He possessed all the tools to be a great player. He should be in his prime right now, yet no NBA team wants him. 

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com

Bypassing College for Europe

ROME - JANUARY 8: Brandon Jennings, #11 of Lottomatica Roma in action during the Euroleague Basketball Game 9 match between Lottomatica Roma v Tau Ceramica on January 8, 2009 at the Palalottomatica in Rome, Italy.
Francesco Richieri/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Coming out of high school, Jennings had many college offers. He had the opportunity to play for basketball powerhouses, such as Kentucky, Kansas, and Arizona. However, in a move that shocked the world, he decided to bypass college to play in Europe. Brandon was the first high profile American recruit to make this decision. 

Playing for the Italian team Lottomatica Roma from 2008-09, he struggled. Throughout sixteen EuroLeague games, he only averaged 7.6 points on 38.7 percent shooting and 1.6 assists in 20 minutes. 

In his 27 games with the team in Lega Serie A, it only got worse. Across those matches, he averaged a mere 5.5 points on 37.7 percent shooting and 2.3 assists in 17 minutes. 

Despite these terrible numbers, scouts still felt that Jennings could become a star. One of the big reasons for this was that he played in a league superior to the NCAA. Since no one had ever done what he did before, scouts gave him the benefit of the doubt. In turn, most NBA teams had him ranked over Jrue Holiday and Jeff Teague. Ultimately, he would be selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the tenth pick of the 2009 NBA Draft. For the first few seasons of his career, it would appear that they made the right choice.

Early Success

In his first regular-season game, he showed that he belonged. Although they lost against the 76ers, he had a near triple-double, putting up 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. If Bucks fans were not in love with him after this game, they would be by his seventh. 

In a winning effort against the Warriors, Jennings would have one of the best games of his career. He dropped 55 points, including 7 threes, with ridiculous efficiency. Fans were already dubbing him as the next budding star. 

At the end of the season, Brandon made the All-Rookie First Team. Even more impressively, he led his team to the playoffs, earning the sixth seed. They would face the third seed Atlanta Hawks in the first round. The Bucks gave them a run for their money as they took Atlanta to a seventh game. Ultimately, Milwaukee would fall short, but Brandon earned respect throughout the league for his outstanding overall play.

Many expected Jennings to be an all-star in the coming years, but his stats remained stagnant. For the next three seasons, he was unable to build on his rookie campaign. Although he continually proved that he was an above-average player, he was not making that jump.

Once his rookie contract expired, most around the league assumed that Jennings would stay in Milwaukee. Earlier in Brandon’s fourth season, John Hammond, the Milwaukee general manager at the time, wished to resign Jennings. “Our intentions would be to negotiate with Brandon and hopefully we can come to an agreement before he goes out into the market or needs to go out into the market. If it does happen and he goes on the market and signs an offer sheet, our intentions will be to match that,” Hammond said. Despite this, they dealt him to the Detroit Pistons for Brandon Knight, Slava Kravtsov, and future all-star Khris Middleton.

Once Jennings signed his three year, 24 million dollar extension with the Pistons, the trade was completed. At the time, the majority of fans and experts believed that Detroit easily won the deal. However, this proved not to be the case.

In the 2013-14 season, Brandon’s first with Detroit, his overall performance was slightly underwhelming but still solid. Playing 80 games, he averaged 15.5 points on 37 percent shooting in 34 minutes. Although he was not shooting very well, his playmaking ability did not disappoint. His impressive 7.6 assists per game was a career-high. Unfortunately, the rest of the team struggled as they finished with less than 30 wins

A Turn for the Worst

A little over halfway through the next season, Brandon Jennings was posting around the same stats as the seasons before. But, for a second straight season, his team was not doing so well. Coming into a game against the Bucks on January 24, 2015, they were only 17-26. They were on track to miss the playoffs for a second straight season. The event that would happen in this game would ruin any chance they had at all of making the postseason.

With 1:20 left to go in the third quarter, Jennings guarded Brandon Knight on an inbounds pass. After a small shove from Knight, Brandon’s left foot contorted, and he collapsed. At first, it looked like he just sprained his ankle, but his reaction to the injury suggested otherwise. It turned out that he had suffered a torn left Achilles, an injury that is fatal to most careers. He would miss the rest of the season and a portion of the next. Most players are never the same after this injury, and sadly, Brandon was not an exception. 

For the rest of his NBA career, he did not average more than 8 points per game for a single season. He also became a journeyman. In the middle of the 2015-16 season, he was traded to Orlando. Then, he signed a one year deal with the Knicks but, he got waived in the middle of the season. Following this, he signed with the Wizards for the rest of 2016-17. It looked like that was going to be his last NBA stint, but his old team, the Bucks, gave him a couple of 10-day contracts late into the 2017-18 season. He played well enough to earn a non-guaranteed two-year deal. However, before the next season started, Milwaukee released Jennings. This was the league’s goodbye to him. 

Although Brandon Jennings may return to the NBA, it is improbable. He has not been in the league for a couple of years, and he turns 31 in September. He has only played five games in Europe since exiting the Association, and he sat out all of 2019-20. 

As fans, we wish that Jennings became the star he was supposed to be, but unfortunately, these downturns just happen. It did not happen just to Jennings. It has happened to many players in many sports leagues, and it will keep occurring in the years to come. Some of these players get unlucky and don’t have any money or a backup job after their career collapses. These guys struggle to even get by. Fortunately, in this case, Brandon Jennings made millions of dollars off NBA contracts and advertisements to last him for life. He currently has a net worth of 16 million dollars.

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