After nearly a month of indecision, the Brandon Jennings era in Milwaukee has come to an end.
The Bucks opted to send the mercurial point guard to Detroit on Tuesday in a sign-and-trade that will bring third-year guard Brandon Knight, second-year wing Khris Middleton and Ukrainian big man Slava Kravtsov to Milwaukee.
A restricted free agent, Jennings will receive a new three-year, completely-guaranteed deal worth around $24 million – a far cry from the max deal he hoped to receive this offseason. He’ll join a revamped Pistons roster featuring a frontcourt of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and new addition Josh Smith. Though Detroit also acquired veteran Chauncey Billups this summer, Jennings will slot in as the starting point guard, likely joining rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Rodney Stuckey in the backcourt.
The deal essentially swaps two young point guards whose values have remained stagnant after successful rookie campaigns. But acquiring Knight also enables Milwaukee to bring in a similar talent at a greatly reduced price – He’s owed just $5.5 million over the next two years with a team option for a third – while at the same time liberating Jennings from a situation he clearly was not interested in being a part of long-term.
While Jennings’ career scoring (17.0) and assist (5.7) numbers are better than Knight’s (13.1 ppg, 3.9 apg), the former Kentucky star is two years younger, a more efficient shooter and much less of a locker room liability. Plus, at 6-3 – two inches taller than Jennings – he has the size to defend bigger perimeter players and should help compensate for shooting guard O.J. Mayo, who, at 6-4, is slightly undersized for the position.
Knight is the clear centerpiece of the trade, but both Middleton and Kravtsov – to a much lesser degree – showed flashes of potential as rookies last season. Middleton appeared in 27 contests, averaging 6.1 points and 1.9 rebounds in 17.6 minutes per game. At 6-7, he has the size and athleticism to play both the shooting guard and small forward spots and will likely have a chance to earn consistent bench minutes.
The 25-year-old Kravtsov appeared in 25 games for Detroit last season, averaging just 3.1 points and 9.0 minutes. Like many foreign big men, he’s still very much a project, but he has a reputation as a shot blocker and, if nothing else, brings more size (6-11, 255 pounds) to an already-formidable Milwaukee frontcourt.
Milwaukee also officially signed Gary Neal and Giannis Antetokounmpo Tuesday, bringing the total number of players on the roster to 15. Additional, minor moves will likely be forthcoming, as the Bucks will have 16 players under contract – one more than the maximum – when second-round pick Nate Wolters inks a deal.