Could Free Agency Flop Help Brandon Jennings and Milwaukee Bucks?
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Despite the best efforts of both parties, it appears as though the Milwaukee Bucks and Brandon Jennings will remain with one another for at least one more season. But the inability by both team and player might actually benefit them both in 2013-14.
In February 2012, ESPN's Chris Broussard reported that Jennings would explore every avenue in terms of his next contract when he became an unrestricted free agent during the summer of 2014.
Since then, Jennings' relationship with the Bucks has been bumpy to say the least.
In March, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports published an article in which Jennings sent a seemingly threatening message, stating that if he did in fact sign the qualifying offer for this upcoming season, he would not return during the 2014 offseason.
Then there were the infamous exchanges he had with former head coach Jim Boylan, including calling him out via Twitter (per USA Today).
Where does all of this leave the relationship today?
Limited Options for the Vocal Point Guard
Jennings can't be happy with how things have unfolded this summer.
In what appears to be a case of nothing more than a player overestimating his value on the market, Jennings has seen little interest from other teams.
With his options becoming more and more limited, maybe he's beginning to regret those late-season outbursts towards his former coach.
At this point, there are very few things that Jennings can do.
He can sign the qualifying offer of $4.5 million and return to the Bucks for one season, push hard for a sign-and-trade or play overseas if he's really bent on not wanting to play for Milwaukee.
Which option is best for Jennings this summer?
While all are possible, the one that makes the most sense for Jennings is signing the qualifying offer.
Clearly he didn't capture the attention of other teams as much as he had hoped to and that has to be a humbling experience. Moving forward with the Bucks for one more season would allow him prove he's not the destructive locker room presence some may say he is.
But that's likely not the only reason he didn't garner a ton of attention this offseason.
For his career, Jennings has a true shooting percentage of 49.8, something he'll definitely want to improve on as efficiency has never been his strong suit.
A Bucks return would also afford him the opportunity to show he can do more than just score.
During the 2012-13 season, Jennings recorded double-digit assist numbers in 13 games while averaging a career-high 6.5 assists per game.
More emphasis on distribution and higher efficiency rates will make him a much more attractive player to potential suitors in the future.
Bucks Have More Options, Jennings May Be Their Best
For Milwaukee, the options are more fruitful, but not by much.
With inadequate depth at point guard, the Bucks face an equally daunting dilemma, and bringing Jennings back may also be their best option.
It all seemed to be coming together when Jeff Teague signed a four-year, $32 million offer sheet with the team on July 11 (per Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports).
Initial reports from Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times indicated that the Atlanta Hawks would not match the offer. Nonetheless they did match the offer, leaving the Bucks in a precarious situation.
With little left on the market in the way of free agents, the front office must concoct a remedy for the mess that the failed signing of Teague has left them in.
The obvious signs point to Jennings being that remedy but as Woelfel tweets, that's not written in stone:
For those who think Brandon Jennings is now a lock to return to Bucks, guess again. As of this tweet, Bucks still looking at other PGs.— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) July 19, 2013
It's difficult to imagine who the Bucks may be eyeing, but if they can find someone they feel is capable of running the offense, that's one of their options.
They could also go to a point guard by committee type of rotation with Luke Ridnour, Nate Wolters and Ish Smith. While this scenario doesn't scream success, it is plausible depending on how serious they are about not bringing Jennings back.
Jonathan Tjarks of RealGM explains that the Bucks are trying to rebuild without falling off from where they were last season. If that's the case, rotating those players certainly wouldn't help the team improve.
Despite their inefficiencies, Monta Ellis and Jennings were a formidable backcourt duo and guided the Bucks to a playoff appearance.
And while O.J. Mayo will have the opportunity of filling Ellis' role, the return of Jennings is imperative if the postseason is the goal.
All Roads Lead Jennings Back to Milwaukee and Vice Versa
Ultimately, neither Jennings nor the Bucks have many great options.
For Jennings, it's beginning to look like a sign-and-trade isn't going to happen. Playing overseas is certainly still a possibility, but it would remove him from the limelight of the NBA, and he risks being forgotten upon returning.
What will happen with Jennings and the Bucks prior to the season?
His best option—if he truly wants out of Milwaukee—is to sign the qualifying offer and move forward from last year's turmoil.
A change in attitude and play would show other teams around the league that he not only possesses the talent to be a star point guard, but that the leadership qualities are there as well.
Just as obvious as a return is for Jennings, it's now Milwaukee's best option as well.
Tjarks' article along with Herb Kohl's recent statements (per Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) show that the team is unwilling to completely blow up their roster and rebuild from the ground up.
With most of the quality free-agent talent at point guard unavailable, they must bring Jennings back to assure they at least attempt their goal of remaining competitive.
Head coach Larry Drew is, without question, more adept at dealing with strong personalities and having control over a team than his predecessor Boylan was.
Perhaps he can connect with Jennings and at least get him focused for one season.
If the season goes well, the Bucks can consider bringing him back—assuming he's interested—or the two can finally go their separate ways.
A split now would leave them both in a difficult predicament.
For the time being, it's in the best interest for both team and player to stick it out one more season and see where that carries them.
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