Brandon Jennings Deal a Sign of Desperation for Detroit Pistons
It is safe to say that it isn't a surprise that the Pistons pulled off a deal for a point guard. In a lot of ways, the Pistons are exorcising the demons of passing on Kemba Walker in the draft three years ago and selecting yet another in a long line of combo guards in Knight.
But this move signals not only how desperate the Pistons are to win now, but also how desperate team president Joe Dumars is to keep his job.
The Pistons had been rumored for weeks to be interested in a new point guard and were connected to names like Trey Burke and Michael Carter Williams in the draft. When they passed on those two and were unable to land a considerable upgrade via free agency, the attention turned to trades.
The fact of the matter was that the Pistons just weren't comfortable enough with Knight running the point guard position this year. There is just too much on the line.
But now the question shifts to whether or not Jennings will fit in Detroit?
Another scoring guard
In a lot of ways, Jennings is similar to Knight. Both are lightning quick, athletic and have tremendous range. Both are also very young and still are evolving as players but are hard-workers that want to get better.
But Jennings brings something that Knight has never been truly good at and that is being able to create offense on his own.
Jennings works best with the ball in his hands while Knight is better in catch-and-shoot situations. Rarely would you see Knight taking his man off the dribble and setting up teammates down low. Jennings does this routinely.
Additionally, Jennings is one of the best in the league at knocking down jump shots off of dribble penetration. Jennings can pull-and-pop with the best of them and he has just the right amount of awkwardness in his jumper to keep defenders honest.
In a lot of ways, this aspect of his game calls to mind Steph Curry and Steve Nash although obviously not at their level.
Jennings is a truly gifted scorer.
That being said, one of the biggest problems with this team at the point guard position has been the inability to make life easier for the big guys.
Will Bynum was the only effective point guard last year at setting up Andre Drummond with spoon-sized helpings down low. Basically, Drummond is not offensively talented enough yet to just catch the ball and create his own space down low with a baby hook or a drop step.
He needs to have someone drop the ball in his lap and set him up for a dunk or layup.
Jennings had a similar player to work with in Larry Sanders back in Milwaukee and seemed to set him up fairly well.
Now this isn't to say that Jennings is all distribution. He certainly is not. He will not be confused with a pass first point guard like John Stockton. Jennings is all about scoring and calling his own number.
But he at least has the instincts to open things up for his mates down low and he sees plays develop quicker than Knight.
Knight's biggest obstacle was his inability to see the court. And once he did see the court, he was a half second too late in making the right pass. This led to tentative play and disjointed offense.
Jennings will improve this aspect of things offensively.
But just exactly how well will he fit?
Not enough basketballs
The biggest knock on Jennings is also perhaps the biggest knock on fellow newcomer Josh Smith. They both shoot the ball too much and take somewhat ill-advised shots.
Smith tends to camp out too often on the perimeter and tries to play offensively like a smaller guy. He really is at his best slashing to the hoop or posting up.
Jennings tends to hold onto the ball too long and his teammates have the tendency to just stand around and watch him.
In Detroit, this would be troublesome. None of the other starters will likely be creating much spacing or offense of their own, so an offense that involves Jennings dribbling out the clock and playing isolation ball would be very ugly.
The challenge for coach Maurice Cheeks is going to be finding ways to space out the court while Jennings, Smith, Drummond and Greg Monroe are on the court.
At the very least, the Pistons should be the best offensive rebounding team in the league. But it remains to be seen if Jennings can defer somewhat his instincts to take over the game offensively and instead cede some of those basketballs to his new mates.
Additionally, it remains to be seen if Jennings and Rodney Stuckey will be able to play together seeing as he is the most likely starter at the other guard spot.
Defensively, they should be a good fit. Stuckey's size and strength will help make up for the diminutive Jennings.
But on the offensive side, Stuckey needs to create his own shot. Therefore, we could end up with a series of one-on-five situations featuring Jennings and Stuckey taking on the entire opposition.
Must win now
This trade, like the Josh Smith signing earlier this summer, was a true showing of desperation from the Pistons.
It comes all the way from the top.
Ownership is desperate for an exciting team that will boost the pathetic ticket sales last year (worst in the league after a decade at the top).
The front office is desperate to put together a relevant team in order to keep their jobs and their hot seats from boiling over.
The coaching staff is desperate to buck the recent trend of one or two years life expectancy for their kind. They also know that if the front office is sent packing, they will likely follow suit.
And Jennings is desperate to play anywhere but Milwaukee and prove that he can be an elite point guard so that he can get a fat contract when his current deal runs out in three years.
The real pressure is on Dumars and the front office. When he took over this job 13 years ago, he was considered a brilliant basketball mind.
He made a series of shrewd moves that culminated in the Pistons winning the title in 2004.
But since then, his Midas touch has turned into something of Medusa's curse. His free agent signings have been disastrous, potential trades were axed and the team has struggled mightily.
Now all the excuses have been removed. They have some firepower and a young core to build around.
This team must make the playoffs this year. That is all there is to it. If Dumars wants to keep his job, this team must be a playoff team.
But in a stacked Eastern Conference, that will be easier said than done. Three of the top four teams in the conference, the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets all got better. And that doesn't even take into account the NBA champion Miami Heat.
The Pistons will be competing with a drastically improved Cleveland Cavaliers team as well as the always tough New York Knicks and several other teams that are intent on rounding out the top eight in the conference.
Talent-wise, the Pistons are one of the top eight in the conference.
But these games aren't played on paper. The Pistons have plenty of challenges ahead of them.
It will be interesting to see if this desperate move turned out to be the right one.
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