Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Look at The Brandon Jennings Trade

The Milwaukee Bucks have finally found a new destination for point guard Brandon Jennings, and Brandon Jennings has gotten a contract for about what he's worth.  Last night the Pistons acquired Brandon Jennings from Milwaukee in exchange for Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, and Slava Kravtsav.  This trade benefits both sides, as the Pistons acquire their second big name this offseason, and Milwaukee can finally start rebuilding.

First of all, let me say, Joe Dumars has managed to save his job this summer.  Acquiring Josh Smith was a big time move in itself and it even led me to predict that the Pistons would make the playoffs. Now with the acquisition of Jennings from Milwaukee for next to nothing Dumars has proven that he is still somewhat of a savvy GM.

I will admit, I'm one of the first people to tell you all about Brandon Jennings' shortcomings.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a Brandon Jennings fan, and I think he has loads of potential, but he's yet to live up that.  Jennings has only shot over 40% from the floor one season, while using 25% of his teams possessions in every season but last in which he used around 24%.  This is obviously not very efficient, and is some good evidence as to why the Bucks have struggled the last few seasons.  However, I do believe that some of this can be attributed to the situation Jennings was in, in Milwaukee.

Realistically Milwaukee hasn't exactly surrounded Jennings with talent.  Though they have made the playoffs three of the last four years they've only registered one winning season in those four years.  While I understand it's difficult to bring in quality free agents to a market like Milwaukee GM John Hammond has not done a great job with the assets that he has had.  The most glaring example of this was trading Andrew Bogut to Golden State in exchange for Monta Ellis.

Ellis and Jennings are more or less the same player, and it was painfully obvious that they were not very cohesive on the floor together.  Both of them are high volume shooters who need the ball in their hands a lot, and neither of them are great defenders.  Pairing two poor defenders in your front court is obviously never a good decision, but the Bucks did it anyway to very little success.  The addition of Ellis definitely hurt Jennings as it was much harder to cover up Jennings' mistakes on defense, and allowed opposing guards to exploit the two of them.

Now that Jennings is no longer in Milwaukee, and appears to have some real talent around him, especially a very talented front court, we should be able to find out how good Jennings really is.  There's little to no doubt that Jennings can score, we all know that, but now that he won't be one of very few offensive weapons we will see if he can effectively run a team as a point guard.  

Jennings' assist totals did improve last year to the best in his career, which is promising because it means he will probably be willing to play the role of a pass first point guard in Detroit which they desperately need.  The Brandon Knight point guard experiment that Detroit attempted was clearly not working, and now it appears that they may actually have a true point guard.  Chauncey Billups will also probably be instrumental in helping Jennings become a better point guard and team leader next season as Billups was very much that guy in Detroit during the early 2000s. 

Make no mistake, Jennings is definitely surrounded by some serious talent now in Detroit.  Obviously he's got Josh Smith, and Greg Monroe is a serious player when it comes to playing underneath.  I think Andre Drummond and Jennings will also be very cohesive and I'm excited to see the two of them run the pick and roll.  Not to mention guys like Kyle Singler, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rodney Stuckey, and Jonas Jerebko.  I mean, none of those guys are stars by any means, but they're much better role players than what Jennings was stuck with in Milwaukee.

The addition of Jennings definitely makes Detroit a team you're going to want to watch on league pass next year, and it will be very interesting to watch how Jennings responds to this opportunity.  Big picture though? The Pistons look like they've definitely gotten a lot better.

John Hammond, man, what can I say about John Hammond that I already haven't?  This guy has been in charge of the Milwaukee front office for 5 years now and I can honestly say I don't think he's made one really great move.  The best move of Hammond's tenure in Milwaukee was probably his drafting of Braond Jennings, and well, obviously Jennings is no longer on the roster.

This trade though, may very well give Hammond the opportunity to turn it around and begin a rebuilding process.  Obviously the question there is whether or not Hammond is competent enough to rebuild successfully, and whether or not he will be around to see the fruits of his rebuild fulfilled as he may very well be fired before that. 

The best thing Hammond did here was trade a clearly disgruntled guard who wanted to be somewhere else, for a decent prospect in Brandon Knight, and two middling prospects in Kravtsov and Middleton.  The best part about this? He doesn't really have to pay them anything, and Brandon Knight could potentially be an asset after this season as he will be an expiring deal and some team may want his services as a bench scorer around the deadline.

Another key here is that Milwaukee is going to be bad.  I mean, really, really, really, really, really freaking bad.  This team is going to challenge Philly and Phoenix for worst in the league here.  I originally pegged them finishing around 12th in the Eastern Conference but there is not a chance that they finish better than Orlando or Charlotte.  This is great news for Hammond as this means he will be in position to get a top 5 draft in what as I continue to mention looks to be a loaded draft class.  Should Milwaukee land say the top pick in this upcoming draft and land Andrew Wiggins, well, that right there is a job saver for Mr. Hammond over here. 

In all honesty, Milwaukee is a difficult team to run.  Small market, cold weather, not a city that has any real major draws.  That's certainly a tough situation for a GM to be in, but you have to make the best of the situation you're in and Hammond has yet do that so far.  The Bucks seemed fine with signing players who are middle of the road guys to keep them in the tail end of the playoffs which will allow them to generate revenue from the playoffs and at least keep the fans mildly interested.

I understand why Milwaukee would be doing this, as Sacramento nearly just lost their franchise to Seattle and the Bucks could be the next to go if they should struggle for several seasons, but it's a gamble they have to take.  Hopefully Hammond will make that gamble and this trade would appear to be a step in the right direction.

It's tough to be a bad team, it really is.  It's tough on the fans, it's tough on management, it's tough on the players.  However, the best success you can have in a small market is building through the draft and acquiring players that want to be in the organization and want to succeed.  Sometimes, in order to do this you have to be pretty freaking bad, and again, that's tough.  Ultimately though you have to look at the end goal if you're a small market team, and that's to be able to have at least a few years of contending before you must make some moves in the name of money and cap space.  No team should make it their goal to be at the end of the playoffs and drafting an average prospect every year, every team should be trying to contend and that's simply how you have to do it in a small market.

In the long run, Milwaukee should ultimately benefit from this trade, though in the short term it's going to be a bit of a rough going.  Hang in there Milwaukee fans, support your team, and hope that your front office is taking steps to making the team a serious contender.

Follow me on Twitter @DbRedickulous

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