Milwaukee point guard Brandon Jennings was named Monday 2012-13’s first winner of the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award. Which probably doesn’t happen without his buzzer-beating 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left against Cleveland Saturday. Which definitely doesn’t happen without teammate Mike Dunleavy’s pinpoint inbounds pass to Jennings near the top of the arc.
So how ’bout a little credit?
“I’ve thrown a few of those in my career,” Dunleavy said, laughing, Monday after Bucks practice and treatment. “It’s about 10 percent of the work. The other 90 percent is the guy making the shot. It was kind of him to put it in. I was just standing there out of bounds, kind of mesmerized.”
Jennings’ numbers to earn POW: 17.0 points, 13.0 assists and 4.0 steals per game in Milwaukee’s 2-0 start. But take a look at Dunleavy’s: 18.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals, while shooting 70.6 percent from the field and 87.5 percent (7-of-8) from the arc. Against the Cavs, he had 29 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
His PER, as a measure of overall efficiency: 34.2. Jennings? 28.5. The average NBA player checks in at 15.0.
Two games is a puny sample size. Multiply it by 41 before we start talking of Dunleavy’s across-the-board numbers in the same terms of Larry Bird‘s or Kevin Garnett‘s. His offensive rating of 149.9 — an estimate of points produced per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference.com — is crazy good. Heading into Monday’s games, it was third-highest in the league, behind Minnesota’s J.J. Barea (156.3) and Miami’s Ray Allen (149.9).
Last season, Dunleavy (118.0) ranked eighth in the stat, behind the likes of Chris Paul (126.1) and James Harden (125.4) but ahead of LeBron James (117.9) and Kevin Love (116.8). (FYI, No. 1 in that category last season was Tyson Chandler (129.6).)
“My main thing when I go out there is to be efficient,” Dunleavy said. “I want to take good shots — if I take good shots, I know I’ll make a high clip of them. And to make sure I’m making the right plays. If the shots there, take it. If not, drive it. If the pass is there, make the pass.
“Ultimately, it’s a pretty simple game. You know where to be on the floor, you can be a pretty efficient player. To be efficient in the time I’m in there — in the 20- to 30-minute range I’m usually playing — that’s what I aspire to do.”
These days, Dunleavy is doing it in a time-share with Tobias Harris at the Bucks’ small forward spot. Coach Scott Skiles leans on Dunleavy as the second-year Harris’ backup, counting on the more experienced guy to handle the bench role and to goose the offense when he subs in.
Skiles admits that he relies on Dunleavy the way Don Nelson and others relied on former Milwaukee sixth man Ricky Pierce, who won the league’s award for that in 1987 and 1990. Not every player welcomes the job, though.
“I think a lot of times, it’s an ego thing, a guy wanting to start or have his name announced with the starting five,” Dunleavy said. “But I know what’s best for this team is coming off the bench and it’s working pretty well.”
From his second season in 2003-04 through 2008-09, Dunleavy started in 361 of 417 appearances for Golden State and Indiana. But he has had just 62 starts in 185 games since, getting as comfortable as he’s been flexible that way.
“One of the things, when guys get a little bit older, it sure makes the progression of your career go smoother,” Skiles told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “Some guys are resistant to any sort of change. They blink their eyes, they’re out of the league and they can’t figure out what happened. It’s because they didn’t want to embrace a different role.”
After 11 seasons and at age 32, Dunleavy just wants to win as many games as possible. He and Harris throw contrasting styles at defenders and, as the third-oldest player on Milwaukee’s roster — behind only Joel Przybilla and Samuel Dalembert — he’s doing a little leading, too.
“You get to a certain age, yeah, that sort of becomes one of your responsibilities: Knowing what guys are doing, making sure they’re in the right places,” Dunleavy said.
From where he sits, Dunleavy sees no issues for Jennings, who didn’t get the contract extension from the Bucks he coveted and can become a restricted free agent next summer. Some projected that the East’s POW performed with a chip on his shoulder in the victories over Boston and Cleveland. Dunleavy didn’t notice a difference.
“Truthfully I haven’t seen a change in him,” he said. “I think he’s handled it pretty well. Anyone — I don’t care who you are, I’ve been there before — you want to get a contract extension, of course you do. But honestly you couldn’t really tell the day of, the day after, whatever it was.
“He started off these first two games and he’s done great. He’s distributed the ball, he’s attacked the rim, he’s accepted the challenge against guys like Rajon Rondo and Kyrie Irving. He’s kept his level-head about him. His spirits great.”
And he hits game-winners, too, when the inbounds passes are delivered so expertly by a guy off to his own quick start.