By: Brad Rowland
Since being selected with the 23rd pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, John Jenkins has gone from “savior of perimeter shooting!” to “receiving bench splinters”, and now Jenkins, in the last four games, has reappeared and done so in a positive way. It has been a roller-coaster ride for a 1st-round pick that looked for all the world like he would see crucial back-court minutes when he was drafted, but now that he’s seeing the floor on a regular basis (at least in the short term), it would be fair to take a look at how he’s progressed.
From the beginning of the 2012-13 campaign until Christmas, Jenkins saw the floor for more than 6 minutes in exactly one contest. In a blow-out loss to Golden State on December 15th, the Vanderbilt sharp-shooter played 17 minutes in mop-up duty, scoring 8 points on 3-8 shooting. Since Christmas, however, Jenkins has played in all four games, shot 68% from the field (15 of 22), 75% from 3-point land (6 of 8), and performed generally well in relief of the injured Devin Harris. Although the playing time can likely be linked directly to Harris’ injury, it is still a different choice for Drew to turn to Jenkins, as Harris has missed time at various parts of the season, but this is the first extended action for the rookie.
When the Hawks selected Jenkins on June 28th, the team didn’t employ any of the shooters/perimeter players that currently see the floor with the exception of Jeff Teague. Kyle Korver was in Chicago, Lou Williams was a free-agent who hadn’t yet inked a contract, Anthony Morrow was in New Jersey (pre-Brooklyn!), and Devin Harris was in Utah. This led to obvious speculation that Jenkins would see extended playing time, and be able to use his considerable talent (perimeter shooting) to provide something that the Atlanta offense sorely lacked in 2011-12. Then, all of the other acquisitions came in, and Jenkins was effectively buried. With only one elite skill, it was tough to play him over the likes of any of the veterans previously mentioned, and while unfortunate for Jenkins, it was reality. In addition to the obvious playing time roadblocks, we had never seen Jenkins do anything at this level, and there were already “reach” whispers in the draft thanks to Jenkins slight size, sub-elite athleticism, and potential defensive issues. And then? He reached the court in the past week.
In breaking news, John Jenkins will never be an elite NBA defender, and in fact, he may never be an average defender. He’s also not a point guard (in any way, really) and that’s a challenge as he’s listed as a generous 6’4, but seems to be more in the 6’2 range. He’s also never going to be an elite athlete, and if you were asking me, I’d tell you that he’ll never be a starting NBA two-guard.
However, John Jenkins is an asset.
The shooting numbers (55% FG, 48% 3-point) this season are unsustainable and they do constitute a small sample size, but there is absolutely no denying that Jenkins is a special shooter. He could have a role in the NBA for a long time with this elite skill (ask Kyle Korver), and he only needs to be serviceable in other areas to achieve that role. His 18+ PER through the first third of the Hawks’ season does indicate that he’s played well when he’s seen the court, and he shouldn’t be punished for having a role that is duplicated by more advanced players like Korver and Morrow.
It is too early to give the verdict on John Jenkins, but let’s not rush to judgment or call him a “bust” because of his limited playing time, and even the fact that he may never be more than a role player. At the 23rd pick, that’s all you are supposed to get, and Jenkins has shown flashes of fulfilling that. I really enjoy the way that Drew has put him in positions to succeed over the last week, running some sets for Jenkins, and keeping the high-leverage pressure off of him defensively. Stay tuned to see how the rotation shakes out when Devin Harris returns, but in the meantime, let’s welcome John Jenkins to the floor.