In the world of math, much is made about a concept called an inflection point–for the Milwaukee Bucks, July 1st will likely prove to be just that.
Effective July 1st, Herb Kohl, John Hammond, and the Bucks can officially negotiate and extend Brandon Jennings rookie contract–if nothing is done, the Young Buck becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the 2013 season.
Now, before we address this current situation, let’s take a look at the last time the Bucks franchise faced a decision like this with a promising lefty. In 2004-2005, the Bucks had a solid core of young players–none more promising than Michael Redd. This was the final season of a four year, $12M total contract, and Redd spent each of the four seasons proving he was a scoring threat to be reckoned with, improving his points per game (PPG) each year.
Given his scoring prowess and fan likeability, after the season ended the Bucks lavished upon Michael Redd and his agent, Kevin Poston, a six-year, $91M deal. The Bucks investment of max money seemingly paid off, as Redd continued his improvement in per game statistics the next two years–but showed signs of durability issues in 2006-2007. His effective Bucks career ended January 29th, 2009–as Redd tore his ACL and MCL at the same time.
Redd was an exciting young lefty that was loved by Bucks fans everywhere–and is still loved–but his contract proved to be crippling for the franchise. During the Michael Redd $91M dollar contract era, the Bucks never broke .500, as they could never put the right pieces around Redd to compete.
Fast forward to July 1, 2012. Brandon Jennings is the current face of the Bucks–yet was only the 11th highest paid player on the Bucks roster at the end of the 2012 season. He boasts humongous upside at a mere age of 22 – and has posted three continuous years of improvement in PPG, field goal %, turnovers, and thefts per game, and maturity – as well as maintained consistency in assists and rebounds per game.
On February 11, 2012, much was made of this ESPN article that stated Jennings was “keeping his options open” and is looking at “big market teams.” Many have even wondered if this quote from Jennings led to the trade of Andrew Bogut and the acquisition of Monta Ellis to replace Jennings.
More recently, John Hammond was asked about Brandon Jennings contract situation.
“It’s something that we’ll look at and we’ll explore,” he admitted. “It’s going to have to be a little bit of a two-way street, so to speak. Something that is important to them and important to us. I think that is. But, it’s not something that we have to do. And the one thing that we don’t want to do and we talked about this. We’ve talked about this for the last couple of years, is not put ourselves in a position where we have to do things. If we have to do things, I think we’re negotiating and working out of a position of weakness.”
The key quote from this intelligent GM is “If we have to do things, I think we’re negotiating and working out of a position of weakness.”
Hammond understands the risk involved of paying more than you have to in order to keep a young star. Jennings is an amazing player – one that I’d love to see in a Bucks uniform for many years – but only at the proper price. While Jennings is the star and fan darling of the Bucks franchise, he is not amongst the elite players of the league and is not worthy of such an investment.
If I were GM, what would I invest? Five years and $35M.
What will the Bucks do as they approach another potentially huge inflection point in their 44 year history? Two of their best assets are front and center right now – will the spotlight belong to Ersan Ilyasova?
Or, will the Bucks shine on both the “Turkish Thunder” and the “Young Buck”?
While the rest of Bucks Nation ponders the possibilities of the .7% ping pong probability, I’ll be pondering this meteoric franchise decision.