There’s never been a tougher time to be an NBA point guard than right now. We feel for Ricky Rubio. He’s walking into a chainsaw. The minute he gets sick of checking Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose, here comes Raymond Felton or Steve Nash. It never ends. Just below the top-tier All-Stars sit players like Brandon Jennings and Jrue Holiday. Two point guards. Two completely different games. Jennings does it with talent, ball skills and an unbelievable offensive repertoire. Holiday does it with defense, steadiness and vast potential.
Two young point guards who are only going to get better. But which one is better? We argue. You decide.
It’s June 25, 2009. The Milwaukee Bucks are on the clock with the No. 10 overall pick. This year’s draft is one of the deepest point guard drafts in recent memory. Already off the board are Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn and Stephen Curry, along with combo guard Tyreke Evans. Now it’s time for the Bucks to decide on their point guard of the future. Their options include Brandon Jennings and Jrue Holiday. That fateful day, the Bucks chose Brandon Jennings and in this edition of Who’s Better, I’m going to choose him too.
Jennings’ official introduction to America came during a November 14th game against the Golden State Warriors. After a scoreless first quarter, it looked like another typical tough night – like any other – for a rookie point guard. That was until he decided to go absolutely ham on a putrid Warriors defense. Making seven of his eight treys, Jennings put up 55 points in dazzling fashion. When defenders went under screens, he rained three balls. When they got in his grill, Jennings went around them and made floaters or mid-range jumpers. It was the most points scored by a rookie since Earl “The Pearl” Monroe dropped 56 in 1968. Holiday, though not the shoot-first point guard that Jennings is, will be hard pressed to ever drop 50.
At 6-3, 180 pounds, with a 6-7 wingspan, you would think Holiday blows Jennings out of the water defensively. Taking the reigns as the Sixers starting point guard this past season, Holiday averaged 1.5 steals while pitching in almost half a block per game. But let’s not overlook Jennings’ capabilities. Despite being undersized, he uses his deceptive quickness and heart of a lion to fight over screens and disrupt the passing lanes. This past season, he also averaged 1.5 steals and who needs to block shots when you have Andrew Bogut backing you up? Just imagine the impact Jennings could have on defense if he had Holiday’s body type.
Basketball fans like to knock Jennings for his shooting percentages. Posting an atrocious career average of 37 percent, maybe it is justified. However, some people might be investing a little too much in the now. The third year for a point guard in the NBA is a make or break year. Even Chris Paul didn’t have the prettiest shooting stats in his first two years in the league. In his rookie season, CP3 shot just 28% from downtown. There’s plenty of room for upside with Jennings and after averaging 15.5 and 16.2 points in his first two seasons, he can become a 20-point per game scorer rather easily. Opponents know that every time they face Jennings, it won’t be as easy of a night as his numbers depict. Jennings can beat you through the pick-and-roll, isolation, by speeding up the tempo to his preferred frantic pace, by distributing or by getting in your head with his dramatic antics. You name it.
Both of these players have some of the higher ceilings in today’s NBA. Jennings’ character issues may cause some people to steer clear of him, but in Who’s Better, were talking strictly on-the-court assets. Although both have the ability to put up near equal distribution numbers, Jennings is already twice the scorer that Holiday is. Holiday is not significantly better enough defensively to make up for it. Give me Brandon Jennings every time.