By Featured Columnist Brad Rowland
When the Hawks tabbed John Jenkins with their first-round selection in June’s NBA Draft, it seemed as if the pick had one purpose and one purpose alone. The Atlanta Hawks needed a shooter, and John Jenkins was the best one available. By now you may all have noticed that the Hawks aren’t struggling with outside shooting whether Jenkins is on the floor or not, but when he was drafted, Kyle Korver and Anthony Morrow weren’t walking through that door, and Jenkins was the one and only hope. Danny Ferry’s confidence in Jenkins’ jump shot (and subsequent selection) was echoed by a recent article from ESPN’s David Thorpe (found here though it is “Insider”-only). Thorpe has been a scout and player development consultant for decades, and he referenced Jenkins as the “best shooter” in the 2012-2013 rookie class.
It’s not the first time that Jenkins’ jumper has received accolades, and it certainly won’t be the last, but it is important to note that Jenkins is cashing in on the hype that followed him from Vanderbilt. He leads all qualified rookies in 3-point percentage, converting 19 of 46 from distance (41.3%) in his limited playing time this season. While his 2-point percentage has finally eclipsed his 3-point numbers (which happened this week), it wasn’t a result of slippage from beyond the 3-point arc, as 40% shooters from distance are a rarity in this league. An even greater compliment comes from Thorpe when he states that “even his misses look good”, inferring that Jenkins’ form and release are pure, and that because of this, his numbers this season are certainly sustainable.
In addition to his pure shooting talents, Jenkins has also performed well enough in the other facets of his game to earn additional playing time from Hawks coach Larry Drew. As a result, he’s also been pegged by Thorpe (in the same article) as a top-4 candidate to “break out” in the second half of the season. There’s no doubt that Jenkins’ push in playing time has coincided with injuries (first to Devin Harris, then to the season-ending injury of Lou Williams), but his production has warranted an increase, and it is being recognized around the league.
There is no question that John Jenkins’ calling card has always been and will always be his elite jump shot. It takes an “NBA skill” to make it in this league, and he certainly has one when you factor in his unlimited range, and consistency of release. Danny Ferry saw this ahead of the curve, and he should be rewarded for that, but it is encouraging to see industry professionals echoing this sentiment, and when the contracts of Korver and Morrow run out at the end of the 2012-13 season, it could be Jenkins that makes the leap to the “go-to” shooter role. For now, it’s nice to have options, and elite options are that much nicer.