Turning one man's trash into another man's treasure has become a specialty with the Mavericks front office. Brandan Wright and Al-Farouq Aminu came to Dallas as washed out lottery picks looking for a revival, but both players received handsome pay days this past summer due after that blossomed under Rick Carlisle's tutelage. This year another first round cast off hopes to emerge as a newly blossomed player: John Jenkins.
Jenkins was picked 23rd in the 2012 draft—just one pick before that glorious Jared Cunningham selection—by the Atlanta Hawks because of his lethal shooting at Vanderbilt University. During his three year stint with Atlanta, Jenkins received sporadic playing time with Jeff Teague, Demarre Carroll, Kyle Korver and Dennis Schroder ahead of him in the rotation. The fragility of the Mavericks' guard rotation leaves space for Jenkins to carve out a role. He's been stellar throughout the preseason, but will his play translate to the regular season or will he fade behind a veteran group of guards yet again?
What to expect from Jenkins?
The former Hawk is knockdown 3-point shooter with enough ball handling chops to run as a lead ball handler for small stretches. Jenkins should see a good amount of playing time during the early portion of the regular season as Wes Matthews works his way into game shape. These early season moments will determine how significant his role within the rotation will be for the long-haul of the season. Jenkins is the best shooter among the non-starters on the team, which should give him a leg up in the competition for playing time. The dispersal of minutes between Jenkins, Devin Harris and Justin Anderson will be something to watch during the season. Harris and Jenkins have excelled during the preseason, while Anderson has had his ups and downs, as a rookie is wont to do.
Best case scenario
Buy your ticket for the John Jenkins hype train while they're still cheap. Jenkins has the fourth-highest scoring average in the entire league on an admirable 49 percent from the field during the preseason. Before you scoff at preseason statistics, the other four players in the top five are Kyle Lowry, Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis and Stephen Curry. Those guys are pretty good.
If Jenkins can maintain his potency in the regular season he could mitigate any scoring ailments from a chronic Deron Williams injury. Jenkins' ball handling skill and shooting off the dribble have been the biggest surprise through the entire preseason. I hate to take the name of Steph Curry in vein, but Jenkins preseason play has mirrored Curry's playing style to a lesser extent. A guy who can hit pull up jumpers from 25 feet can morph the entire geometry of the floor on offense. The Mavericks already have one of the best floor benders in the league in Dirk Nowitzki, but the offense could be especially lethal by throwing Jenkins into the fold.
Taking a peek into Jenkins' numbers from last year, his current preseason numbers look less like a mirage. He only played 24 games, but if you look at his per 36 numbers, Jenkins registered 16 points per game on 49 percent from the field and 40 percent on threes. He was buried deep on the bench in Atlanta, but Rick Carlisle has set Jenkins free.
"Coach lets me play my game, which means everything to me and he' just letting me play free out there," Jenkins said after their preseason matchup with the Hawks. If Jenkins newfound freedom is any indicator of his regular season success, those per 36 numbers could become a reality.
Worst case scenario
Jenkins's shooting ability is enticing, but he leaves much to be desired as an NBA athlete. Standing at 6'4, Jenkins is on the smaller end of the size scale for shooting guards. That, combined with his average lateral mobility, could make him a liability on the defensive end, and god forbid this team puts another defensive liability on the floor. If Jenkins can't defend at a league average level, he might find himself buried on the bench yet again.
Forces outside of Jenkins' control may keep him glued to the comfy chairs on Mavericks bench. If Deron Williams somehow maintains a clean bill of health and Matthews continues to progress at a rapid pace, the minutes will be sparse for any guard on the bench. Carlisle is pretty committed to J.J. Barea and Devin Harris because of their experience in the system and their ability to get Dirk the ball in his spots. They would have to play at a catastrophic level to be usurped by the young sharp shooter. Jenkins role, like many on this Maverick roster, is contingent on a throng of hypotheticals.
Can Jenkins become a Sixth Man of the Year candidate?
The Mavericks have not had an irrational heat check guy—Monta does not count because he had it all—since Jason Terry left in 2012. Vince Carter carried the sixth man torch valiantly, but his play was calm and measured. He rarely felt the need commander the scoring responsibilities. Carlisle championed Harris as the Mavs sixth man last year, but outside of his affinity for 2-for-1 situations, Harris also played within himself. Jenkins' ability to shoot off the dribble makes him a prime candidate for the irrational heat check role.
Jenkins' aggression on offense has played a significant role in his astonishing preseason averages. It's easy to dominate the ball when you're surrounded by Jamil Wilson and Brandon Ashley, but can Jenkins maintain his aggression when he's flanked by the numerous weapons on this Mavericks roster? He has the opportunity to become a major scoring threat if he can part the sea of guards in front of him in the rotation. It will probably take a significant injury to Harris or Williams, but Jenkins has shown that he's capable of carrying the scoring load for a second unit.
Aminu and Wright found success by carving out their niche in the second unit. If Jenkins replicate their discoveries, he could be the Mavericks' next unearthed diamond.
Does Jenkins think a hotdog is a sandwich?
Nope. If he wants to find success in this league, he'll come around on this opinion.