The Detroit Pistons have made another sizable splash this offseason, adding talented point guard Brandon Jennings via sign-and-trade. This was another move that signaled the Pistons’ willingness to try and push their team back into its usual playoff realm.
Through personal experience, when I see a franchise make a bold move such as this one, I initially become filled with exuberance, but, after some deep thought and over-analyzing, I also shake my head begrudgingly in disbelief.
Yes, Brandon Jennings is an immediate upgrade at the point guard position over Brandon Knight, but is he that much of an upgrade?
Jennings, 23, shot a lousy 39 percent from the field last season in Milwaukee and was a non-factor in his second career postseason appearance against the Miami Heat (shooting 29.8 percent in the series).
During his short career, Jennings has garnered the reputation of a bad shot-taker, who relies too heavily on his outside jumper; a jumper displaying a funky, elongated release. Alongside the shooting woes, Jennings is known for not being the greatest perimeter defender. He often takes too many chances and gets himself out of position regularly.
But, instead of dogging on his short-comings, let’s analyze why he had these issues.
For starters, Jennings played for the Milwaukee Bucks–I don’t think I have to elaborate too much on that. Some would say, “But they made the playoffs last year?” Well, Mr. Jennings had a lot to do with that. Jennings played on a roster that lacked in depth and big-time talent, so it’s conceivable that his reputation for taking bad shots comes with a reasonable amount of understanding. When you’re a talented guy playing with teammates not as talented as yourself, it’s not beyond comprehension that Jennings felt he needed to carry the brunt of the load offensively, hence the forced shots, turnovers and gambling defensive mentality.
Also, while we’re on the topic, can we remember that Brandon Jennings is still only 23 years old.
Brandon Jennings has a lot of good years ahead of him and he has yet to scratch the surface on the type of player he can be. The reported 3-year, $25 million deal with Detroit is a steal in comparison to the $12 million he was reportedly asking for. The Pistons are receiving potentially an All-Star caliber point guard at the same rate other point guards like Jose Calderon and Jeff Teague signed for this offseason. Jennings also comes to a situation and city where he’s wanted. Jennings will be under the tutelage of guard-friendly head coach Maurice Cheeks and veteran former-Finals MVP Chauncey Billups. If there were two mentors for a young guard in this league, these guys are two of the best and Jennings should thrive under their wings.
Jennings biggest obstacle that may prove to be not an obstacle whatsoever, is the adjustment from being a scoring point guard to a facilitator and buying in defensively. The young guard will now have an uber-talented front-court at his disposal that will take a mountain of scoring pressure off his back. This will be the first time in Jennings’ short career where he will be able to dish the rock and set up teammates using his superior athleticism and playmaking bravado. Defensively, Jennings will have to showcase the ability to play a good, smart team game. I’m sure a defensive-minded head coach in Maurice Cheeks will hammer into Jennings’ mind that a lot of the team’s future success will hinge on his willingness to play both ends at an equally high level.
But, in my opinion, the most important thing for Brandon Jennings is getting a fresh start. He’s going to a young team featuring a new coach, a larger market and a passionate fan base: these factors will be profoundly important to Jennings’ success.
This deal also does a lot of good for the Detroit Pistons.
The Pistons didn’t have to give up Greg Monroe in the process, whereas in other trade rumors (Rondo) it would have potentially featured him and a slew of other assets. The Pistons only had to cut ties with point guard Brandon Knight, center Slava Kravtsov and forward Khris Middleton in this deal, which could prove to be an absolute bargain for Detroit.
It also helps in terms of future cap room and roster space. The Pistons signing Jennings for $8 million per season, like I mentioned before, is a great deal for both sides. Jennings wanted $12 million, the Bucks were giving him $4.5 million and now he gets $8 million with Detroit; the perfect medium. It’s a great rate for all sides involved. Detroit has two large contracts on it’s roster: Charlie Villanueva (one-year, $8.5 million) and Rodney Stuckey (one-year, $8.5 million). They can now dangle these contracts as trade-bait for a potentially useful piece in a playoff run or let them expire and use the freed up money to re-sign Greg Monroe, whose deal is up at the end of the season. They also free up roster space with this deal giving up three players to one and now have enough roster space to sign rookie point guard Peyton Siva, who impressed at the Orlando Summer League, or use it to sign a back-up center, of whom they lost trading the Ukranian big-man Slava Kravtsov.
Could this be the triumphant return of Mo-town round-ball? Or is this just the Gordon-Villanueva Disaster version 2.0?
I say lets not think about all that just yet and just bask in the fact that Detroit Pistons basketball just got exciting again. Really exciting.