Jennings' rise among NBA's early surprises

BY foxsports • November 18, 2009

Compared to some of its professional-sports-league peers, the NBA can be a bit stingy in squeezing out unexpected developments.

And while we won't commit to absolutes, it's hard to imagine the next Most Valuable Player existing as someone other than Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Dwight Howard. The 2010 championship expectation pool isn't very deep, either, with the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Denver Nuggets and Cleveland Cavaliers checking in as the lead suspects.

The next Coach of the Year figures to be any sharp guy currently coaxing over-achievement — about two years before he gets canned for raising expectations in the first place.

But the 2009-2010 season is threatening to at least produce a few cracks in the mold.

In our desire to respect the unexpected, we'll begin in Milwaukee, where Brandon Jennings has emerged after his ballyhooed and controversial year abroad to look very much like the second coming of Tiny Archibald. After his 55-point effort last Saturday evening, the slippery lefty was averaging 25.6 points per game, shooting about 50 percent from the field (57 from 3-point range).

It should be noted that while boosting the unexpectedly decent Bucks to their fifth win in seven games, Jennings' outburst was generated against the Golden State Warriors; the defensive exchange rate suggests that scoring 55 in a game with the Warriors is only worth about 33 vs. almost anyone else. After watching a highlight clip that featured each of his 21 made field goals, I was absolutely appalled at how Golden State made no adjustment in (ahem) defending Jennings on a high ball screen.

For the Warriors and Coach Don Nelson, such disinterest in getting in the way when the opposition has the ball is not exactly unexpected.

Anyway, now that he has a head start on injured Los Angeles Clipper Blake Griffin in the Rookie of the Year derby, Jennings — the 10th overall selection in the 2009 NBA Draft — could be the lowest pick to achieve ROY status since Phoenix Sun Amare Stoudemire won as the ninth pick in 2002.