Breaking Down Why NBA Teams Are Steering Clear of Brandon Jennings

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJuly 15, 2013

Brandon Jennings comes with a warning label.

After four years in the NBA, the point guard finds himself where he never could have envisioned he would be—without a home.

Restricted free agency is a chance for stars in the making still on rookie deals to get paid. Teams traditionally flock their way, hoping to sign them to an offer sheet their incumbent faction won't be inclined to match.

Well into the free-agency period, Jennings finds himself juggling no such offers. The Milwaukee Bucks haven't signed him, and he's yet to bring them an offer in hopes of forcing their hand.

Usually, the lukewarm market surrounding a player like Jennings would be surprising. He's one of only seven players in league history to have averaged at least 17 points, 5.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game while hitting 80 percent of his free throws through the first four seasons of his career. 

Joining the ranks of Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry would imply he's on his way to becoming an elite floor general. Such exclusive company has to count for something. 

And it does. I'm just not shocked that Jennings has yet to find home, nor will I be miffed if he doesn't find one for quite some time.

Nothing about this process has been normal, though it has been revealing.

Most star restricted free agents in Jennings' situation don't even hit the semi-open market. Fellow 2009 NBA draftees Stephen Curry, Jrue Holiday and Ty Lawson never did. Their teams locked them up before it got this far.

Tyreke Evans found himself in a similar situation, and now he's headed elsewhere.

Coincidentally, so is Jrue Holiday, but the twists and turns the Philadelphia 76ers have been thrown for aren't comparable to what's happening with Jennings. They originally wanted Holiday. A botched Andrew Bynum trade changed everything.

Jennings wishes to head elsewhere too, according to the Sporting News' Sean Deveney.

Believing that the bridge between him and Milwaukee has been torched beyond repair—especially after the Jeff Teague debacle—Jennings wants out.

The problem is he has no escape route. No team has come to rescue Jennings, and for good reason.

Per Deveney, potential suitors are turned off by the fact that the Bucks can match any offer they hand out—but they're also wary of the money Jennings is thought to command:

As it stands, Jennings is a restricted free agent and his rights still belong with the Bucks. He can sign with another team, but Milwaukee has the right to match any offer. That’s one reason teams shied away from Jennings on the free-agent market this summer.

Another reason is that Jennings wants to be paid like the three point guards from his ’09 draft class who received extensions last offseason: Stephen Curry, Ty Lawson and Jrue Holiday. Those players signed deals in the range of four years and $41-48 million. But he is not going to find that money on the current free-agent market, and the Bucks are obviously reluctant to give Jennings that kind of a contract.

Making a competing offer is a part of restricted free agency.

In a worst-case scenario, the Bucks match whatever offer thrown Jennings' way and you're left without a point guard you never had to begin with.

Any qualms teams have about paying Jennings, then, have less to do with the Bucks and more to do with the point guard himself. 

Jennings has done little, if anything, to answer the questions and resolve the issues that have existed for a half-decade, before he even reached the NBA. Knowing that checkered pasts and hazy futures don't always make for good investments, Jennings is left on the outside looking in.

The Past Matters

Red flags have always surrounded Jennings, well before he made the jump to the NBA.

Unable to declare for the draft and not sure if he had the SAT scores to attend college, Jennings went to Europe to play professionally upon leaving high school. That in itself is cause for concern.

Incapable or simply turned off by the idea of paying his dues in college, Jennings found an essential "loophole," bypassing what has become traditional practice in favor of something that was more convenient for him.

Then, when Jennings was finally eligible for the draft, he was late, like it was some dinner party or something and not one of the biggest days of his life.

Little has changed since then.

In February of 2012, he treated himself like a prospective king, playing the LeBron James card from 2010 and maintaining that he was going to keep his options open during free agency.

"I am going to keep my options open, knowing that the time is coming up,'' Jennings told ESPN's Chris Broussard via email in February of 2012. "I'm doing my homework on big-market teams.''

Jennings wasn't done either.

This past season, his list of accomplishments included openly expressing interest in signing with the Dallas Mavericks, firing his agent after failing to land an extension with the Bucks and calling out his own coach.

Why is it that teams are hesitant sign him again? Oh, that's right, he's an egotistical wild card.

Point guards are supposed to be leaders on the court and in the locker room. Teams aren't going to invest in a floor general who can't manage himself, let alone his troops.

The Math Doesn't Quite Add Up

Efficiency is all the rage in today's NBA. 

Monta Ellis and Jamal Crawford, among others, are constantly picked apart for not shooting a high percentage from the field. Jennings falls into the same category.

For his career, the shoot-first, pass-later point guard is converting on just 39.4 percent of his field-goal attempts. Of the 54 players (minimum 20 games) to average at least 15 points per game last season, Jennings was the only one to shoot below 40 percent from the field (39.9).

Jennings is also the fourth player in NBA history to post at least 17 points per game through the first four seasons of his career while shooting below 40 percent from the floor.

On top of that, he's not consistent in anything he does. At all.

Take a gander at how Jennings fared per game by month during the regular season:


Those aren't numbers indicative of an elite floor general. Or even close. His assist totals varied by month significantly, and in his best month (April), he topped out at 43.4 percent shooting from the floor.

Still, Jennings believes he's worth $12 million a year.

Former teammate and fellow gunner Mr. Ellis didn't even land that much from the Mavericks. And he averaged more points (19.2) and a similar number of assists (six) per game compared to that of Jennings (17.5 and 6.5, respectively). He also shot a higher percentage from the floor (41.6 percent), which is saying something, only because he's freaking Monta Ellis.

In an age where teams are becoming smarter and more privy to volume-shooting mirages, Jennings isn't worth $12 million a year. I'd hazard he's not even worth eight figures annually at all.

No wonder he hasn't latched onto a team just yet.

Looking Ahead

There is no evidence to suggest that Jennings has changed.

Starting waves in his own locker room, discussing his future plans while he's still under contract with the Bucks, making demands he is in no position to make—the list goes on. And it doesn't stop.

That's not just part of the problem; it's all of it.

We can chalk the absence of a contract up to suitors' fears of the Bucks matching, but we'd be wrong. This situation isn't on Milwaukee (entirely). It's on player who has yet to find, and subsequently embrace, direction.

Until Jennings proves that he is deserving of the respect and compensation he claims he is, he will forever be in a holding pattern.

After deciding not to attend college and missing David Stern announce his name on account of tardiness, the point guard still hasn't grown up. He seems to be the same inefficient and misguided young player he was back then.

Four years later, we're still waiting for Brandon Jennings to show up.


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