Tag Archives: NBA

Bucks’ Jennings – The Looming Free Agency Problem

Is he, too, taking his talents elsewhere?

Brandon Jennings, the undisputed star for the Milwaukee Bucks, may not be residing on the shore of Lake Michigan for too long. Reports recently surfaced that Jennings is doing his homework on big-market teams (shocking that he knows how to do his homework in the first part, considering he skipped college to play abroad and attended high “school” at Oak Hill Academy.)

Jennings is eligible to sign a lucrative contract extension with the Bucks this summer. Remember, part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement allows the Bucks to offer the most money to Jennings. But, it’s expected he will sign a one-year tender with the Bucks, and hit the unrestricted free agent market in the Summer of 2014. It’s an ominous sign for the Bucks, who can ill-afford to lose the one player on the team that keeps them exciting and fighting for the playoffs on a yearly basis (it also doesn’t hurt the Bucks play in the Eastern Conference where the half-trying Atlanta Hawks seem to find the playoffs yearly.)

Jennings is claiming it has nothing to do with the City of Milwaukee itself – of course it’s not; what doesn’t Milwaukee have to offer a kid Straight Outta Compton?! It’s purely business. Taking Jennings at his word, the decision to spurn the Bucks comes down to the direction of the squad. With Bogut spending more time on the training table than Ice Cube selling out to Coors Light (sense a theme here?) and Stephen Jackson never seeing a terrible shot he didn’t like, Jennings may have a point about the Bucks’ direction. Since drafting Jennings in 2009, the Bucks have drafted Larry Sanders, Tobias Harris, and Jon Leuer. It’s usually best not to emulate the KAAAAAAAAAAHN when drafting. Again stealing a book from the KAAAAAAAAAHN, the Bucks filled in the rest of the roster with a bunch of players that have bounced around the league – Shaun Livingston, S. Jackson, Drew Gooden, and Mike Dunleavy. Frankly, I can’t blame Jennings for wanting to do his homework.

It’s important to keep in mind that if Jennings does sign elsewhere, he will take less money to do so. The new CBA was designed to give small- to mid-market teams an advantage in signing their own players to maintain parity. But there is not much a franchise like Milwaukee can do when a player is willing to accept less money to play elsewhere. Just ask Cleveland – but I’m pretty sure anyone would take less money to live on South Beach instead of next to this.

Right now, Milwaukee is 12-14 after it’s thrilling win against Cleveland and are hanging on to the 8th seed for the playoffs. Brandon Jennings is their catalyst. But, for how long? A point-guard with his natural scoring ability will be a sought after commodity if he were to hit the open market. And it doesn’t take long to consider how good he’d look at the point for the Spike Lee Knicks (yes, this is assuming the Linsanity phenomena is as short-lived as the Tebowing phenomena.) Don’t be surprised, Milwaukee, if you hear this refrain in the Summer of 2014:

“As I Leave, Believe I’m Stompin
But When I Come Back, Boy, I’m Comin Straight Outta Compton”

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Wolves the next Thunder?

The next Thunder? Not quite.

ESPN Insider recently ran an article proclaiming the Wolves the next OKC Thunder based on far-reaching similarities: both teams drafted cornerstone players in the top of the draft (Durant and Love), both teams paired them with young point guards (Westbrook and Rubio), both hit on a non-lottery Intl. big man (Ibaka and Pekovic), and both have stockpiled draft picks to turn into different assets. At first glance, this article seems to have legs; but upon closer examination, this comparison is worse than ESPN’s forced efforts to compare Gronkowski’s twisted ankle to Curt Schilling’s ankle (Seriously ESPN, enough focusing in on this glorified frat boy with a bum wheel. Everyone knows he’s going to play. And, it’s not even close to the same thing as Schilling’s epic game 5.)

Undoubtedly, both teams have franchise players in Kevin Durant and Kevin Love. But, the difference between the two is stark. KD is probably the second best player in the league, and the two-time defending scoring champ. He scores at will, and can create his shot. K. Love is the Big Fundamental. He puts up impressive numbers, but he is not the elite score like KD and struggles at times creating his shot. His numbers have improved this season, but it’d be hard to deny the fact that Rubio’s presence has helped him get better looks. Now, I understand K. Love brings more to the table with his rebounding. But, the bottom line is they are completely different players. Its like saying the Packers and Vikes have similar franchise players in A-Rodg and AP.

Similarly, the article focuses on two complete opposites at point guard. Westbrook is a scoring point guard who uses his elite speed to get to the rack. Rubio might already be the best passer in the league (tell me the last time you recall seeing someone deliberately pass it between a defender’s legs to a spot-up three!) Both bring excitement to the squad, but in completely different fashions.

The worst comparison is claiming both teams hit on International big men after the lottery. First, Serge Ibaka was the 24th selection in the 2008 draft, while Pekovic was the 31st selection (also known as the first pick of the second round). Ibaka is a defender first, averaging 2.4 blocks per game – good for third most in the league. Pekovic has 5 blocks the entire season. Ibaka is also a freak of an athlete. Remember, he was in the Slam Dunk contest last season. Pretty sure Pekovic doesn’t know how to jump off one foot. Now, this isn’t intended to slam Pekovic. He has played well of late, and really done a nice job on the offensive glass. Frankly, it’s to early to even say the Wolves “hit” on drafting Pekovic, especially if you consider DeAndre Jordan was taken four picks later (and incidentally immediately after the Wolves drafted and then traded Mario Chalmers). Regardless, the two players are simply not comparable.

Kahn won the bidding war for Darko Milicic.

Finally, and most importantly, the article neglects to discuss the fact that OKC has surrounded their star players with a great core. OKC signed Thaba Sefolosha away from Chicago, and fills the role of defensive stopper. James Harden, another top draft pick, is turning in a Sixth-Man of the Year type season. And they traded away young, solid players (such as Jeff Green) to nab Kendrick Perkins from the Celtics. Meanwhile, well, I’m pretty sure there is a new adjective for how the Wolves have been built: KAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHN!!!!! To put it nicely, Kahn hasn’t quite built the team in similar fashion. Outside of drafting (and patiently waiting out the two years) Rubio, Kahn has unfortunately whiffed on most of his draft picks – Jonny Flynn (instead of Steph Curry), Ty Lawson (who  was immediately traded), Wes Johnson (instead of DeMarcus Cousins – yes I know he’s a mental midget, but Sactown is so dysfunctional, who knows if he would have responded to K. Love’s leadership and Adelman’s coaching), Nick Calathes (instead of drafting Wes Matthews who went undrafted – sorry, I have a weird, unnatural man-crush on this solid, nothing special Madison native), and they drafted a guy from Senegal (Hamady N’Diaye) that proved to be a few years older than they had thought – kind of embarrassing. Further, Kahn signed two point guards in back-to-back summers to essentially the same deal – Ramon Sessions and Luke Ridnour. He paid $20M to Darko Milicic – yep, that’s the same Darko you’re thinking. Otherwise, the roster is full of players that make for solid 7th to 10th men off the bench. Who knows how Beasley, a.k.a. the Black Hole, fits in with Rubio and the new system. (Full disclosure, I like his role coming off the bench in these past few games. He is one of the few players on the squad that can create his own shot, and is a nice fit for the second team players.) Needless to say, the motley crew of “other players” Kahn has assembled to go with his stars is not quite on the same page as OKC.

There is no doubt that the Wolves are improving… finally. But, they are not the next Thunder. Thankfully the Wolves have another top pick in this draf… oh wait, MCHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALE!!!!!