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Bucks rookie Brandon Jennings will square off against the Thunder's Kevin Durant on Friday night.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

Jennings, Durant push their teams into national TV spotlight

Posted Nov 26 2009 10:35AM

The Numbers Game is a weekly notebook of the most compelling numbers that can be found in and beyond the boxscore.

Who ever thought we'd see the day when a game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Oklahoma City Thunder is the national TV highlight of a 12-game Friday night in the Association?


Who ever thought that the Bucks and Thunder would have a combined 16-12 record at this point in the season? They're two of the feel-good surprises of the first month, and they're led by two of the brightest young stars in the league.


Brandon Jennings was taken with the 10th pick in the Draft, but he became the most buzz-worthy star of the rookie class after just one regular-season game, when he missed a triple-double by just one rebound and one assist. Two weeks later, he dropped a double-nickel on the Warriors -- yeah, 55 points -- and made the Bucks more newsworthy than they've been since Sam Cassell was running point.

Highest Scoring Games, Rookie
Player Team Date Points
Wilt Chamberlain PHI 2/21/1960 58
Wilt Chamberlain PHI 1/25/1960 58
Rick Barry SF 12/14/1965 57
Earl Monroe BAL 2/13/1968 56
Brandon Jennings MIL 11/14/2009 55
Wilt Chamberlain PHI 11/12/1959 55
Elgin Baylor MIN 2/25/1959 55

Kevin Durant knows what it's like to be a rookie who can light it up. When he dropped 42 in April of 2008, he became the youngest player in NBA history to score that many points in a game. Averaging 20.3 points in his rookie season, Durant was just the seventh rookie in the last 15 years to average 20-plus.

Highest Scoring Average, Rookie
Player Season Team G Pts Avg
Brandon Jennings 2009-10 Mil 13 304 23.4
Carmelo Anthony 2003-04 Den 82 1725 21.0
LeBron James 2003-04 Cle 79 1654 20.9
Kevin Durant 2007-08 Sea 80 1624 20.3
Tyreke Evans 2009-10 Sac 13 247 19.0
O.J. Mayo 2008-09 Mem 82 1516 18.5
Pau Gasol 2001-02 Mem 82 1441 17.6
Derrick Rose 2008-09 Chi 81 1361 16.8
Chris Paul 2005-06 NOK 78 1258 16.1
Eric Gordon 2008-09 LAC 78 1252 16.1
Since 2000-01

Jennings' 55 was no fluke, of course. In just 13 games this season, he's scored 25 points or more six times, as many times as Dwyane Wade did as a rookie. At this pace, Jennings will score 25-plus 38 times this season, which would tie David Robinson for the most 25-point games as a rookie since the 1986-87 season.

Most Games, 25+ Points, Rookie
Player Season Team No.
David Robinson 1989-90 SAS 38
Ron Harper 1986-87 CLE 35
Shaquille O'Neal 1992-93 ORL 34
Allen Iverson 1996-97 PHI 32
Carmelo Anthony 2003-04 DEN 30
Glenn Robinson 1994-95 MIL 28
Mitch Richmond 1988-89 GSW 28
Tim Thomas 1997-98 PHI 28
Tim Duncan 1997-98 SAS 27
LeBron James 2003-04 CLE 24
Since 1986-87


Doing it With D

As electric as Jennings and Durant are offensively, the biggest reason the Bucks and Thunder are where they are in the standings is because of defense. They are both among the most improved defensive teams in the league.

Most Improved Defenses
Points allowed per 100 possessions
Team 2008-09 RK 2009-10 RK Diff.
Oklahoma City 106.9 21 99.2 7 -7.7
Portland 104.5 10 97.0 3 -7.6
Charlotte 103.4 7 96.4 2 -7.0
Dallas 105.3 17 98.5 5 -6.8
New Jersey 108.2 23 101.7 13 -6.5
Milwaukee 104.9 15 99.0 6 -6.0


Improving O

If you've been paying attention, the most improved offensive team shouldn't be a surprise. Thanks to their embarrassing game in Charlotte on Wednesday, the Raptors are no longer the most efficient offense in the league this season (Phoenix took over the top spot), but they're easily the most improved. And Atlanta's improvement offensively has clearly been the biggest factor in the Hawks' strong start.

Most Improved Offenses
Points scored per 100 possessions
Team 2008-09 RK 2009-10 RK Diff.
Toronto 104.3 22 110.6 2 6.3
Atlanta 106.6 10 109.8 3 3.2
Memphis 100.9 28 103.9 16 3.0
Sacramento 102.6 24 105.5 11 2.9
Phoenix 111.2 1 113.7 1 2.5
San Antonio 106.2 12 108.2 5 1.9


Quick Hits

• In Wednesday's win in Houston, Jason Kidd passed Mark Jackson and now ranks second all-time with 10,337 career assists. At his career average of 9.2 assists per game, Kidd needs to play 594 more games to pass John Stockton's mark of 15,806. If he doesn't miss another game, Kidd can get there in January of 2017, when he's 43 years old.

• In their first 13 games, the Bobcats had scored 30 or more points in a quarter just four times. On Wednesday against the Raptors, Charlotte scored 30-plus in three of the four periods.

• Last season, the Kings lost their first 28 games against the Eastern Conference before beating the Knicks (in New York) on March 20. This season, it took only three games against the East to pick up a win, and the Knicks were their victim once again, Wednesday in Sacramento.

• The Knicks' David Lee led the league with 65 double-doubles last season, recording one every 1.2 games he played. This season, Lee is tied for 16th in the league with just five double-doubles in 15 games played.

• Jason Williams may not be able to hit a pair of free throws to put a game away in the closing seconds, but he leads the league with an assist-turnover ratio of 5.08. Since turnovers were first compiled in 1977-78, a player has had an assist-turnover ratio of 5.0 or better only 11 times. Muggsy Bogues pulled it off five times, and the last to do it was Jose Calderon in 2007-08.

• Three of the Heat's nine wins this season, including each of the last two, have come by one point. Last season, just one of Miami's 43 wins came by a single point.

• When they were rookies in 1987-88, the Warriors' Winston Garland (3) had two more games of 25 or more points than the Pacers' Reggie Miller (1). After their rookie season, Miller (286) had 282 more games of 25 or more points than Garland (4).

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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