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.
If you watched HoopMixtape at all this summer, you would think that Brandon Jennings was the NBA’s next up-and-coming star. That position, however, belongs to John Wall at the moment. In fact, Jennings doesn’t even have the edge over many young guards, and that includes Jrue Holiday.
Sure, Holiday doesn’t score in a flashy fashion like Jennings. He might not be able to shift a team’s momentum with highlight-reel three-pointers or dazzling crossovers. Holiday does have two huge advantages though. He has size and he is a true point guard. In the NBA game, those are two assets of high value. There are more players in the NBA that can score than players who can defend and distribute. In fact, when it comes to distributing and defending, Holiday looks like an elite player compared to Jennings.
Holiday ranked 17th in the league in assists per game last year, whereas Jennings wasn’t even in the top 40. Holiday’s 6-7 wingspan and unbelievable lateral quickness could make him one of the NBA’s top five defensive guards down the road.
Even when it comes to scoring, Jennings does not have that much of an edge on Holiday. There is no doubt that he is a better shooter, but Holiday only averaged two less points per game than Jennings. Let’s not forget that Holiday also has veterans like Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala taking shots away from him. If Holiday were in the spotlight, he might even be able to average 20 points per game in the NBA.
There is also something that needs to be said about upside too. Not only does Holiday have the physical edge on Jennings, but he has displayed more improvement over the course of his career than Jennings. In their second year in the league, Holiday improved his averages by six points and 2.7 assists whereas Jennings only improved his averages by one point per game.
Holiday will continue to improve, not plateau like Jennings has. That is the type of player you want in your franchise.
Who do you think is better? Who would you take?
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