Paying dues is something Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis have done a lot of in their NBA careers. In other words, NBA nights haven’t always been high-life caliber for these cats. They're just about ready to cash in on their grinding, so regardless of how bad Miami spanks them, this series means something to them.
Ellis was chilling as one of Golden State's gunners alongside an emerging Steph Curry. Only problem was, Ellis isn't the special delivery-machine Steph is, so he was traded to make room for this era's Reggie Miller.
When Ellis got to Milwaukee, he was teamed up with Jennings, another free-shooter. Jennings took a circuitous route to the NBA. He was a standout for two legendary high school basketball programs; Dominguez HS in Compton, California and Virginia's Oak Hill Academy. Jennings wanted to go pro after high school, but the NBA requires players to be at least 19 years old, and one year removed from high school before entering the league. So instead of entering the '08 draft, Jennings balled for Lottomatica Roma of the Italian League. Then, he was drafted by the Bucks as the 10th overall pick in the '09 NBA Draft.
Ending up in Milwaukee is not the ideal situation for a young, exciting player seeking endorsements and championship glory. Both players have done their best to keep the Bucks competitive in the Eastern Conference, but subjection to the Miami Heat guillotine doesn't seem like a just reward for a team that fought so hard just to secure a first-round playoff berth.
Milwaukee is the epitome of a small market fish – with limp championship aspirations–competing against flashy, big-market teams with swollen testicles.
Getting traded to Milwaukee wasn't the ideal situation for Ellis. He and Jennings execute their basketball two-steps in similar fashion. They both can average close to 20 ppg, but neither is ideally designed to be a ball distributor
The Bucks have nothing to be ashamed of for making the playoffs. It's universally understood that a squad led by an ill-constructed backcourt comprised of the Mighty Mouse guards, wouldn't be able to impede the destiny of Superman and his Super Friends.
More importantly, Ellis and Jennings' performance in this series is an audition of sorts for two ballers, who in all likelihood, can't wait to escape the clutches of organizational mediocrity in Milwaukee.
Ellis has a player option and will likely opt out of his deal. His 19.4 ppg career scoring average makes him a potential "max-money" candidate, but his growing reputation as an inconsistent volume-shooter lessens his appeal. Jennings is a restricted free agent and there's a good chance he leaves the team as an unrestricted FA in 2014.
Jennings has never been comfortable as a point guard, but that's the position teams are going to expect him to play. There are a number of quality NBA franchises that can use a young guard who can shoot the trey, play both guard spots, and is searching for the bright lights of success.
Jennings would look fresh to death in that Lakers purple and gold and Ellis to the Celtics would be a problem. In this series so far, both guards have shown the enigmatic flashes of brilliance and inconsistency that has plagued their careers. Ellis, who hasn't shot over 45.1 percent since the '07-'08 season and Jennings, a 39.4 percent career shooter, scored a combined 48 points in Game 1. In Game 2, instead of rising to the challenge, they shot a combined 5-for-22 with 15 points. Jennings was 0-7 from three-point range. It didn't get any better in Game 3.
Unless one of them stays in Milwaukee for a grossly over-paid max-money deal, Ellis and Jennings should invest heavily in this series against Miami. The money ball will be in their court soon, and being rich and a winner trumps all other options.