Jennings vs. Sessions: which one is “special”?

This summer for some odd reason the Milwaukee Bucks couldn’t wait to run PG Ramon Sessions out of town.  They had to make room for the redundant draft choice Brandon Jennings.  One of the reasons given publicly for this switch — and this is cruel irony at its finest — was that Sessions supposedly “couldn’t shoot”.

At the time I pointed out (or “whined” depending on your point of view) that history was not on the Bucks side.  Rarely do you see examples of 19 year old inexperienced point guards succeeding in the NBA.  And Jennings past statistics gave ZERO indication that he would be different.

At first it looked like I was dead wrong, as Jennings shot a mindboggling percentage in his first few professional games.  But I remained skeptical.  I not only believed the fast start was a mirage, I thought it was a dangerous mirage.  Jennings now had carte blanche to hoist away.  And its hurt the Bucks.

Expected points versus actual points

I’m in the process of doing a quick analysis of how many points each Milwaukee Buck is costing the team or adding to the team based on the type of shots he’s taking and the number of points the average player would deliver on those same mix of shots.  I am using the “shot location” data on Hoopsdata.com, as well as their “expected field goal %s” from each range to do the study.

I’m not done but its looking like the costliest Bucks are Jennings (-35.8), Redd (-26.6), and Delfino (-25.4).  The most productive shooter, it looks like is going to either be Ilyasova (+2.1) or possibly Warrick, who I haven’t yet done.

Just for shits and grins I jumped over to the Twolves list and checked our old friend Ramon Sessions to find out how he’s producing.  The guy they needed to replace… because he couldn’t shoot.

He’s actually producing (+1.2) points above average.

Given that Jennings almost certainly took minutes that would have gone to Sessions, and given that in most other statistical categories Sessions is either even with or superior to Jennings, we can replace the two and make a dirty “what if” calculation (I note that Jennings defense is statistically better, but Sessions numbers are hampered by playing with the NBA’s  smallest frontline behind him.)

If you give the Bucks those missing points they would be on a trajectory that would land them around 41 wins rather than the sub 34 wins they are headed for now.

Counterfactuals are never conclusive, but its interesting to speculate.  Hopefully Jennings better days are ahead of him.  We’re probably in “wait till next year” mode anyway.

FOOTNOTE:  I was right about Bogut too.  Its not that he’s shooting poorly (he’s actually dead even in points delivered), its that he’s taking poor shots.  Based on the type shots he’s attempted, he’s making as many as the average shooter.  But he’s not delivering the shooting percentage he usually delivers and he’s not delivering what a center usually delivers, so that’s not good enough.  The problem has to be that he needs to take more high percentage shots.  Shooting below positional average is just as detrimental to the team as shooting below “shot mix” average.

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