Will he stay or will he go?
That's the story for a number of NBA players this offseason, including Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings. The 23-year-old Jennings has played his first four seasons with the franchise but is a restricted free agent this summer.
The Bucks extended a qualifying offer on his $4.3 million salary for the 2013-14 season, but prior to Thursday night's draft, it looked like Milwaukee was looking to facilitate a trade for the No. 10 pick in the 2009 NBA draft.
Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times reported on Thursday that the Bucks were looking to entertain sign-and-trade offers for their star point guard:
That report is consistent with both league-wide thinking about Jennings' intentions to get out of Milwaukee and falls directly in line with this tweet from Brett Poirier of TC Media:
But Jennings did not move on draft night, as the Bucks picked up Grecian phenom Giannis Antetokounmpo with the No. 15 pick in the first round and then made a complicated trade that netted them South Dakota State point guard Nate Wolters in the second round.
Jennings is still a Buck, and the story appears to be a little bit different the morning after the draft. As this series of tweets from Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel would suggest, the Bucks now appear committed to do whatever it takes to keep Jennings around:
It's unclear if this "change of heart" came after the team failed to land any of the top three point guards (Trey Burke, C.J. McCollum and Michael Carter-Williams) in the 2013 draft, but there's a good chance not finding a replacement has a factor in a public display of support for the four-year pro.
Milwaukee had a chance to draft German point guard Dennis Schroeder and Miami's Shane Larkin at No. 15 but decided against it and went with the immense upside of Antetokounmpo instead.
As a result, the team is setting itself up for the future, and even added Wolters to bolster the point guard situation, but have to feel wary about letting Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick all leave town without any sort of fight.
This tweet from Gardner should put the lid on any idea that Milwaukee is going to forgo the luxury of having a trump card when it comes to negotiations with Jennings this offseason:
So there you have it. After four solid years of basketball in Milwaukee, Jennings is at a crossroads in his career. With the impact of the draft and other Milwaukee free agents affecting his future, it seems likely he'll be in Milwaukee for at least one more season.
But his future with the franchise is still very much in doubt.
Conflicting reports about his future have been coming in for most of the offseason, so much so that the Thursday-Friday shift in Milwaukee's plans should come as no surprise to those who have followed this situation closely.
After his season was over, Jennings did nothing to cement the idea that he's in love with the Milwaukee franchise (via Fox Sports' Sam Amico):
The Bucks were bounced from the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs by the Miami Heat, but Jennings then told RealGM's Shams Charania that while he would contemplate all of his options with the free-agent market, he would also "be cool coming back" to Milwaukee for another season.
Jennings knows that Larry Sanders is a star in the making and that the team would do everything it took to build around him and win if he was to stay. In addition, the fact that Jennings can earn that extra year in a contract and more money over the life of a deal will be a large consideration in his decision.
But ESPN's Marc Stein reported back in May that the team was leaning toward making a pitch to keep Ellis more than it was to keep Jennings, a thought process revealed in this series of tweets:
Larry Drew was the choice at head coach, but the Monta Ellis situation hasn't panned out like the Bucks had hoped. An attempt to extend the final year of his contract into a three-year, $36 million deal was in vain earlier in June, and Ellis did not exercise his player option to return for the 2013-14 season.
With Ellis commanding a large market and the unrestricted title over his head, it's obvious that an easier choice in both negotiations and the safety of Jennings being restricted points to the idea that Milwaukee would want to now shift its focus to one of the longest-tenured Bucks on the roster.
But Jennings still has a choice to make.
He can sign a long-term deal with the franchise this summer, sign an offer sheet elsewhere and now realize that Milwaukee is 99.9999 percent likely to match it without some sort of beneficial sign-and-trade being worked out, or he can opt in for $4.3 million and ride out his time until he's an unrestricted free agent next year.
There are pros and cons to each idea. Signing a long-term contract gives Jennings financial security but locks him into the franchise for the next five years (max deal). Signing elsewhere makes him feel like he has power over his decision, but Milwaukee can always snatch that power away when it deems fit.
But opting in for the final year of his deal could be a win-win. He stays in Milwaukee, gets a chance to improve upon his dismal shooting percentage (39.9 percent from the field), and will still have the free-agent market next summer when he's just 24.
If he's desperate to get out of Milwaukee, Door C is the one Jennings should venture toward. A necessary evil of that door would be staying one more year, but it's a guarantee that he'll be gone (maybe even by the trade deadline) if he sticks around on his rookie deal.
Things will continue to heat up around Jennings and the Bucks, but this situation is by no means set in stone. As everything is during the offseason, consider Jennings' situation fluid, and keep it that way until he's in uniform next year.
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