Dynamic point guard Brandon Jennings will hit restricted free agency this season, but just how that pans out remains to be seen. Either way, the Milwaukee Bucks must retain him at all costs, at least for this season.
Earlier this month, ESPN's Chad Ford reported that Jennings was "frustrated" with the Bucks and wanted to be traded due to "irreconcilable differences" with team management.
ESPN's Chris Broussard later refuted that report, but that did not make the speculation go away. Jennings has long implied that he would prefer to play for a large market team, and restricted free agency would allow him to see what opportunities are out there. Given how he doesn't seem to want to be in Milwaukee, one would think that GM John Hammond would look to deal him for the best trade package possible.
Fast forward to today, however, and Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports reported that the Bucks were unlikely to deal both Jennings and guard Monta Ellis prior to Thursday's trade deadline. If true, then Hammond has made an excellent decision.
The fact of the matter is that with the Bucks ranking eighth in the Eastern Conference, trading a player as talented as Jennings does not make sense unless a better point guard is received in return. Jennings has posted a respectable 18.5 points and 6.1 assists per game this season, but his 39.5 shooting percentage is likely to turn some teams off of the idea of giving up A-list talent for him.
More importantly, how are the Bucks supposed to compete for the rest of the season if Jennings is dealt? As good as Ellis is, he is not as strong an athlete nor as good a playmaker as his teammate. To think that the Bucks can maintain pace in the East with Beno Udrih or anyone else running the point this season is ridiculous, and makes zero sense for Milwaukee at this point.
Many people also seem to forget that even though Jennings is set to hit restricted free agency in July, that does not automatically mean that he is leaving Milwaukee. Per the Gilbert Arenas Rule of the current CBA, the Bucks can match any offer Jennings receives and agrees to with another team, regardless of how much money is involved.
Whether or not that happens remains to be seen, but the Bucks have no choice but to roll the dice. The team has a solid young core this season that, if it gets hot at the right time, will be able to make some noise in the playoffs. I'm not saying that the team will win a playoff series, but at least it won't get to the first round and get shellacked like most teams in its position.
The Bucks won't even be able to get to that point without Jennings running the point. All flaws aside, he is still incredibly talented and has been the primary reason for Milwaukee competing in the Eastern Conference this season.
Trading him would mean wasting all of the efforts that got the Bucks in the playoff race to begin with, not to mention the team's chances for the future.
The fact is that Jennings must remain in a Bucks uniform this season, lest Hammond wants to give up and start a rebuilding phase before the 2012-13 campaign is even over.