Court Vision: Brandon Jennings trade reaction
For today’s Court Vision, here is a sampling of the reaction to Tuesday’s trade in which the Pistons acquired Brandon Jennings from the Bucks for Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton and Slava Kravstov. Jennings signed a three-year, $24 million contract as part of the sign-and-trade.
• Jeremy Schmidt, Bucksketball: “[Jennings] was very good immediately. Too good. Jennings was a superstar for his first 11 games in Milwaukee, there’s really no other way to phrase it. But 11 games is just enough time to be dangerous in a city with the recent history Milwaukee had in 2009.
“Bucks fans had been desperate for a star player for quite some time. Milwaukee traded Ray Allen in 2003 and was heavily reliant on Michael Redd to be a star after that. Redd kept the Bucks mediocre, but didn’t have the help or ability to take them any further than that. After a few years trying their hardest to be a good team, the Bucks bottomed out in 2006-07 and 2007-08. The resulting draft picks? Yi Jianlian and Joe Alexander. Not exactly the stars Milwaukee needed to revitalize a struggling franchise.
“That’s the situation Jennings stepped into in 2009. John Hammond had already traded Yi and the player he acquired for Yi, Richard Jefferson and was moving quickly to distance himself from his mistake with Alexander. It had been a long time since the Bucks had a first round pick of their own that turned into an important player, so 11 superstar type games was a big deal. Milwaukee was starved and Jennings looked like prime rib.”
• Andrew Sharp, Grantland: “Three freak-athlete big men (Andre Drummond, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe) who can’t shoot, a point guard who shoots too much (and still can’t shoot), a bench full of wild cards, Will Bynum and Rodney Stuckey … How is this really a team? Everything about this Pistons squad and the way Joe Dumars built it has been a giant middle finger to everyone. Nobody would take a chance on Andre Drummond in the 2012 draft? The Pistons grabbed him. Nobody wanted to commit big money to Josh Smith? The Pistons swooped in and stole him for $54 million. Chauncey Billups is washed up? Chauncey Billups is coming back to Detroit. Tony Mitchell? Freak athlete/tweener who plummeted in the draft. BOOM. Pistons. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope? Well … nobody has any clue what he’ll end up doing. But, hey, Pistons. Throw in Jennings, and COACH SHEED, and the Pistons are basically just stockpiling guys who have driven the whole world crazy. Now they’ll drive the world crazy together. It’s League Pass Christmas!”
• Ryan Wolstat, Toronto Sun: “Jennings declined to say much, saying he wants to ‘stay under the radar for now,’ but did admit ‘I’m happy’ about the trade.”
• Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider ($): “Still, if Milwaukee was going to move on, there was probably a better way to do it than this. As the saga played out, the Bucks left themselves with few options — especially after their failed attempt to sign Jeff Teague away from the Atlanta Hawks essentially eliminated the possibility of Jennings taking a reasonable long-term deal to stay in Milwaukee.
By this point, the alternatives were basically a sign-and-trade or Jennings playing this season for the qualifying offer and leaving as an unrestricted free agent a year for now. This move at least salvages some long-term value, though its still uncertain how much because Knight’s long-term potential is difficult to gauge. Based on last season, Knight isn’t a starting-caliber point guard. He appears best suited to play both guard spots, preferably off the bench for a good team. SCHOENE calls him most similar at the same age to a shooting guard — new backcourt-mate O.J. Mayo.”
• Patrick Hayes, Piston Powered: “Objectively speaking, there is sound statistical analysis that doesn’t bode well for how this roster will fit together. For the time being though, I’m content to ignore that. This team is the eye test’s dream. I can choose to envision a team that runs relentlessly with Jennings and Will Bynum pushing the pace, that has Smith and Drummond filling lanes, forming arguably the best tandem of lob-receivers in the league (hell, the Pistons might as well sign Tyrus Thomas to fill out the roster while they’re at it and just get ALL THE DUNKS) and igniting fast breaks with great blocks. Hopefully Billups is healthy enough to play meaningful minutes late in games when the Pistons want a steadier hand running the offense. Hopefully there are finally enough weapons around for Monroe to operate like the high-post hub he was meant to be. Hopefully the team exceeds expectations enough so that Dumars’ reputation bounces back and we start to remember how great the first half of his tenure as team president was rather than how awful the last half has been. Hopefully the Pistons, whether they’re good or bad, play a brand of basketball that is exciting enough to draw some fans back to games and Billups and Rasheed Wallace don’t have to sit in a depressingly empty Palace every game. Hopefully the Pistons not having a roster spot for him last year didn’t deter Ben Wallace from staying in shape and he’s ready for ONE MORE SEASON as an end of the bench reserve.”
• Eric Freeman, Ball Don’t Lie: “The Bucks, meanwhile, are courting the sort of all-encompassing irrelevance that the Pistons are looking to escape. Knight is a decent option in the backcourt, but he also struggles with his shooting (shooting 40.7 percent from the field last season) and is best known for getting embarrassed on other players’ highlights. After losing Jennings, Ellis, and J.J. Redick this summer, the Bucks are likely to enter next season with Knight, Luke Ridnour, O.J. Mayo, and the recently signed Gary Neal as their guards, with each player being best fit for a bench role. The youthful frontcourt of Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova, and John Henson shows promise, but they do not constitute the core of a solid or even rapidly improving team. It’s not clear what the Bucks want to be or how they plan to do it. They are likely to be very bad, yet it doesn’t seem like the result of a rebuilding plan so much as an unfortunate byproduct of their own uncertainty.”
• Vincent Goodwill, Detroit News: “[Jennings] has to distribute more, especially with Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe in the frontcourt. It can’t just be an afterthought or last-ditch option; the Pistons like his aggressiveness, they just want it to be harnessed. It’s much in the same way Chauncey Billups had to transform his game when he arrived in Detroit over a decade ago, when he was a scorer first but had the ability to become a playmaker. Jennings, if he’s smart, will seek the counsel of a player who’s been in the same shoes as he to help manage the adjustments and expectations. One good thing, perhaps great thing about Jennings is he can carry a team through long stretches, although he’s certainly just as apt to shoot his team out of a game as well with his streaky shooting. Either way, the Pistons will likely acknowledge it’s a risk but one worth taking.”
• Charles F. Gardner, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “The Milwaukee Bucks now have a 21-year-old point guard, a 24-year-old starting center and a 22-year-old power forward. Not to mention an 18-year-old small forward, the youngest player selected in the June draft. Get the picture? If it smells like a rebuild, tastes like a rebuild and feels like a rebuild, that’s what it must be…Will Bucks fans stay with the team through this period? Bucks owner Herb Kohl expressed his genuine concerns at the news conference for new coach Larry Drew a few months ago. He said he wanted the team to remain competitive and not get into a losing mode. But it will be difficult for the Bucks, who finished 38-44 last season.”
• Tom Ziller, SB Nation: “All moves made by the Detroit Pistons this offseason need to be viewed with an eye toward what the team lacks: their own 2014 first-round draft pick if it’s not within the top eight. The Pistons let that pick go a year ago to lose Ben Gordon in a trade that freed up the cap space to grab Josh Smith. The trade was almost like a payday loan: the Bobcats gave the Pistons the opportunity for cap space in 2013 instead of 2014 in exchange for a protected first. So unless the Pistons were really going to suck, there’s no reason for Detroit to hold back. In fact, it’s better for Pistons general manager Joe Dumars if the pick Charlotte makes in place of Detroit isn’t very good. Add in that the Pistons have been bad for a number of years, that the youth movement has borne some fruit and that there’s a gaping hole in the middle rung of the East, and you have a recipe that begs for a decent team.”
• Dan Feldman, Piston Powered: “Once the Pistons signed Josh Smith and put themselves squarely in win-now mode, it became imperative they upgrade their starting point guard, and Jennings accomplishes that. If the Pistons are pushing themselves out of the top-eight of the draft – and signing Smith almost certainly did that – they had to get beyond the 9-14 range (The Disaster Zone, where they miss the playoffs and send their first-round pick to the Bobcats). Though Jennings’ flaws – erratic shot selection, attitude – could derail his positives, he projects to be much better than Knight, and that’s important for this team. Not getting a point guard better who would definitely be better next season than Knight has been the previous two would be like eating a hotdog without mustard. Sure the dog and bun are the most important ingredients, but without mustard to make it go down, the whole meal would have been ruined.”
• Eric Buenning, Brew Hoop: “A 6’7″ forward with a 6’10.75″ wingspan, the 21-year-old [Khris Middleton] might have the potential to become a rather nice 3-and-D type, with a little more versatility on offense. Middleton developed a rep as a guy who could get his own shot while Texas A&M, which he should be able to get off over most small forwards. The question is whether he can find reliability in his stroke from distance, which tailed off during an injury-plagued junior season in 11/12…As will be customary for this trade, the question of “Why is Detroit willing to part ways with them?” is important. This applies more to Brandon Knight than it does to [Slava] Kravtsov or Middleton, but it still matters. Neither of these complementary parts is worth holding onto at the expense of getting a starter, but that certainly doesn’t mean they are incapable of contributing.”
• Conrad Kaczmarek, Hardwood Paroxysm: “More often than not, the NBA team with the more talented roster wins out. There are certain cases where scheme, chemistry, and coaching allow a lesser roster to overcome a significant gap in talent, but usually talent reigns supreme. And while you can question all of the specifics regarding the additions of Jennings and Smith, I don’t think you can sincerely question that they increase the overall talent on the Pistons’ roster. Again, I’m not about to simply dismiss any questions about the future direction of the Pistons’ franchise (what’s the endgame here??) or about what how the heck Mo Cheeks is going to make this roster work. But at a certain point you want to start winning games. It could have been pressure from ownership to put more fans in the Palace or the front office may truly believe that a Drummond/Monroe/Jennings/Smith core can be a title contender in the future. But more likely, the Pistons saw an opportunity to improve their roster by adding two very talented players – and they did so without sacrificing much more than some newfound cap space (sorry, Brandon Knight). That seems pretty sensible to me.”