Any invested Bucks fan knows the relationship between the front office and Brandon Jennings is lukewarm where a contract extension is concerned. There have been remarks about the point guard exploring the free agent market with a restricted tag in the summer of 2013 and Ersan Ilyasova’s 5-year, $40 million extension — plus other contracts already on the books for 2013-14 and beyond — limit any offers the team could make.
That said, the likelihood of a deal with Jennings being reached before the October 31 deadline is as good as nil, according to NBA.com’s David Aldridge.
Citing clauses in the new CBA and the recent decline in franchises’ willingness to sling out big extensions to rookie contracts, Aldridge doubts Jennings and the Deer will commit to one another before Halloween.
He’s not the only member of the Class of 2009 in this particular situation, however.
Drafted six spots ahead of Jennings by the Sacramento Kings, Tyreke Evans finished his first NBA campaign by hoisting the Rookie of the Year award, but has been decreasingly productive over the last two seasons due to nagging injuries.
Jennings finished third in that ROY voting, sandwiching Golden State’s Stephen Curry — another point guard — between himself and Evans. Curry efficiently split primary ballhandling duties with current Buck guard Monta Ellis for two years, but cannot avoid lower leg injuries, suffering a rolled ankle on Friday after playing in only 26 games last season and having arthroscopic surgery to clean the joint in April.
Curry is viewed by many as being the Warriors’ backcourt anchor of the future, but any extension talks have been put aside until the preseason concludes, which incidentally coincides with Curry’s projected return. Any hesitation by the Bay Area brass to dole out a sizable contract could convince the guard to look elsewhere for better options.
Theoretically, any of these players could be suiting up in Milwaukee come 2014. This begs the question: if the Bucks had their pick from the currently un-extended 2009 draftees, who would it be?
Is it Jennings, the known quantity who has both exploded for 50+ points and floated single-digit scoring games with little explanation? Evans, the scoring guard that can get into the lane with ease and owns a ROY statuette that will rust if he doesn’t shake the injury bug soon? Could it be Curry and his up-trending true shooting that topped 60 percent last season?
James Harden and Ricky Rubio are coveted league-wide and, technically, still available, but foregone conclusions have their respective clubs holding on tight. Raptors guard Demar DeRozan is a probable entrant to the wading pool, though, and the Bucks will be in need of a shooting guard if Monta Ellis finds a new home and Doron Lamb doesn’t progress in the expected manner. Jrue Holiday’s contract in Philadelphia is in limbo, too, until the 76ers sort out Andrew Bynum’s cash.
Neither DeRozan or Holiday have performed or are expected to perform on the same level as Jennings, Evans and Curry, however.
Considering his past with Ellis and the buzz about building with Curry in California, let’s nix him from the list. Evans is a more realistic candidate for free agency given the unending drama in Sacramento and a roster ripe with former college stars thanks to multiple trips to the draft lottery.
Jennings and ‘Reke can both score in the paint. While Brandon relies on quickness, Evans is a dizzy of dribbles, which may explain why his career field goal percentage is .441, nearly five points above Jennings in the same category. That, and Jennings’ proclivity for shooting the three-ball when that is not his game.
But for two guys considered as score-first point guards, filling the bucket is rarely the issue. Passing and facilitating must also be considered as the NBA moves toward more of an outside-in strategy and dominant post players become rare elements.
On their careers, Jennings has 124 more assists than Evans and facilitates at a better clip by assisting teammates’ baskets 27.5 percent of the time he is on the floor, whereas the current King dishes an assistant percent of 24.5.
The advanced stats give an edge to Evans in total rebounding percentage and defensive rating, but also reveal that he turns the ball over 14.3 percent of the time — a significant number for a point guard. Jennings’ 12.0 percent is passable in comparison.
Using his possessions more efficiently, Jennings also a much higher win share per 48 minutes: .091 to Tyreke’s .067. Neither is sterling, but Jennings is accounting for more wins by a large margin.
Given past numbers and injuries, Jennings gets my vote. But what’s the saying — two out of two isn’t bad? Not so applicable here.
I’m a blogger, though, not a general manager. If your vote is different or you can justify the same conclusion with other reasons, let us know in the comment section.