Who Is the Dallas Mavericks' John Jenkins?
After six games this preseason, Dallas Mavericks guard John Jenkins ranks fourth in points per game with 20.8. He is behind All-Stars Kyle Lowry, Damian Lillard, and Anthony Davis and just ahead of MVP candidates Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.
Obviously it is just preseason, but the question remains, especially when looking at the elite talent surrounding him on the leaderboard: who is John Jenkins?
Originally drafted by Atlanta in 2012, Jenkins played sparingly with the Hawks. Through three seasons, the 6'4" guard has played only 98 games at an average of 13.8 minutes per game. Firmly behind some combination of Kyle Korver, Louis Williams, Kent Bazemore, and Thabo Sefolosha in the Hawks' rotation the last three years, Jenkins has seen only limited minutes throughout his career.
In his rookie season, Jenkins played 61 games, scoring 6.1 points per game in fewer than 15 minutes per game. After a back injury restricted him to 13 games in 2013-14, Jenkins started last season buried on the depth chart.
The emergence of Dennis Schroder in 2014-15 ate up any chance Jenkins had in Atlanta, as he ended up playing fewer than 300 minutes. Despite playing only a combined 35 games between the NBA and the D-League, Jenkins scored well last season, based on per-36 averages.
His advanced metrics were above average as well. His 15.9 PER and 0.8 nERD, the number of wins over .500 a player would be expected to make a league-average team, were both a tick above league average.
His True Shooting Percentage of .629, on the other hand, would have ranked him in the top 10 of the NBA, had he qualified -- just behind Durant and Curry, but still ahead of James Harden. If anyone deserved an opportunity for playing time, it is the 24-year-old Jenkins.
Despite his lack of playmaking ability and weak defense, Dallas saw Jenkins as a good fit in their system because of his excellent spot up shooting. The Mavericks were willing to take a low-risk flier on the 23rd pick of the 2012 draft and signed him to a partially guaranteed deal.
To the average bystander, Jenkins' numbers this exhibition season would seem to have come from out of nowhere. In reality, when compared to his per-36 minute numbers with Atlanta and in the D-League, his preseason averages of 20.8 points, 1.8 three-pointers on 48 percent shooting from the field and 90 percent from the line reflect the opportunity he has been given this preseason.
Jenkins' points this preseason are not coming from just jacking up long-range shots either. The guard is making shots from all over the floor; he is hitting 67 percent of his two-point shots and getting to the line over five times per game as well.
Besides his handful of rebounds, 3.7 per game, Jenkins is not contributing much else. Taking nearly 15 shots per game in the preseason, Jenkins will not be seeing that much volume in the regular season, even if he is starting.
Expectations for 2015-16
With the return dates of Parsons, Matthews and Williams unknown, there will be plenty of minutes for Jenkins to play in the early goings this season. While there is no chance he sees 30.5 minutes per game with a fully healthy Mavericks roster like he has this exhibition season, his impressive play has left the fourth-year pro solidly in the rotation.
The sidelined starters also are afforded to take their time returning to action because of the emergence of Jenkins. As the projected two-guard of the future and coming off Achilles surgery, Matthews can be allowed to sit out as long as needed if Jenkins can carry his preseason performance into the regular season.
When the wounded stars return for Dallas, Jenkins, Devin Harris, Justin Anderson, and Juan Jose Barea will fill out the reserve backcourt rotation this season. With Williams nursing a calf injury and not likely for opening day, Harris may see himself play more point guard to make room for Jenkins to show what he can do when the games count.
Still only 24 years old, Jenkins could have a future in Dallas as something more than a preseason wonder. If he can establish himself early on this season, at worst he can be a worthy successor to Harris as the backup two-guard.