Flash back to the Pistons’ news conference to introduce Brandon Jennings. Joe Dumars in his opening statement, as transcribed by Matt Watson of Detroit Bad Boys:
We also like the fact that he has five years of pro experience, one in Italy and four in Milwaukee. And we thought that he could step right in, hit the ground running and fit with the rest of our guys.
If Jennings could deliver on that, that would be fantastic for the Pistons.
They’re desperately trying to snap a four-season playoff drought, so they needed a point guard who didn’t require too much on-the-job learning. And they’d already assembled an unconventional frontcourt featuring Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, so they need a point guard who could play with that trio.
Their previous point guard, Brandon Knight, made too many youthful mistakes, and his inability to operate in tight spaces made him a poor fit with the jumbo frontline. Jennings would help on both fronts.
Or so it seemed.
Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks, a former All-Star point guard, is not nearly as praising of Jennings 16 games into the season. Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press:
Cheeks knew where everyone on the floor was supposed to be — or supposed to be going. When they weren’t, he told them. Jennings is trying to learn that now, after a life of seeking out space to shoot.
“It takes a certain amount of time for a guy to do that if that if they haven’t been doing it that way their whole career,” Cheeks said. “I don’t think it’s just an overnight thing, I think Brandon is learning a little of that.”
“It’s very important to figure out where a (teammate) should be and direct him where to go,” Cheeks said. “It’s not an overnight thing where you learn how to play with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith.”
Cheeks is certainly entitled to a different opinion than Dumars, and that might be all that’s happening here. But it also seems like the Pistons are talking out of both sides of their mouth. Make big promises, and then beg for more time when they don’t come to fruition.
For what it’s worth, Cheeks’ assessment looks much more accurate than Dumars’. Not only does the Pistons’ offensive rating fall from when Jennings is on the bench (106.3) to when he’s on the court (100.0), it falls even further when he plays with Smith, Monroe and Drummond (97.3).
Jennings hasn’t shown the polish of a five-year pro, and fit well with this team.
Perhaps Cheeks can use his experience at the position to teach Jennings to be a better point guard. But even though Jennings doesn’t seem old at just 24, not many players improve greatly at this stage of their career. Another mentor for Jennings – Chauncey Billups, a rare exception to the rule for blooming late at point guard – is on the Pistons’ bench.
Even if Cheeks and Billups can eventually get Jennings on track, the Pistons have a more pressing concern – how to win without the point guard they thought they were getting, the one who plays like a seasoned pro and fits well with Smith, Monroe and Drummond.