Milwaukee May Not Spend Big Bucks For “Young Buck”

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.

Game Notes: Toronto 99 – Milwaukee 105

* People will be talking about Jerry Bayless’ offense, but what caught my attention was his defense. Brandon Jennings came into the game averaging 26 points per game this month and he was held to 11 points while going 4-14 from the field. Bayless’ defense resulted in a 24 second shot clock violation late in the first half and frustrated Jennings throughout the game. When I asked Bayless about his approach to guarding Jennings he told me, “Sometimes we would try to trap him but most of the game I just tried to front him and force him into taking tough shots.”

* One of the turning points in the game was the phantom foul call on Bayless while Jennings was attempting a three-pointer. Jennings went 1-3 from the free throw line. As Rasheed Wallace would say, “Ball don’t lie.”

* Bayless on the team struggling late in the game: “I guess we just had a brain fart.”

* DeRozan went 4-7 from the field in the first quarter (8 points) and then went 5-15 the remainder of the game (13 points). Honestly, why can’t this kid put things together and be consistent from quarter-to-quarter? It’s maddening to watch. Sure, he scored a team-high 21 points, but seeing his play change from quarter-to-quarter is tough to watch. It’s almost as bad as the fact he attempted 22 field goals but only four free throws.

* Here’s what Scott Skiles had to say before the game: “We need these wins. Games like today are the games where you find out the will of your team, how much fight they have and things like that. Can we come in here and beat them again? This is a big game for us. Lets see how the guys react.” I imagine Coach Skiles was happy with his team rebounding from a tough first half to steal a road win.

* Drew Gooden and Ersan Illysova combined for 52 points and 18 boards. Yikes.

* Carlos Delfino was in the Raptors’ locker room after the game catching up with former teammates.

* I know there is value in Toronto holding onto Leandro Barbosa until the end of the season because of the cap space it will clear, but, what about dealing him to Indiana for a draft pick and AJ Price? It would help Toronto add some nice pieces without taking away too much financial flexibility. Plus, it would be great to see Barbosa get a chance to play in the playoffs.

Random Stats: Milwaukee has won six-straight games against Toronto… Milwaukee is 13-4 when scoring more than 100 points… Toronto is 1-10 when they allow opponents to score more than 100 points… Milwaukee ended the first half scoring seven straight points… Ed Davis had his tenth  double-digit rebounding game with his game-high 10 rebounds… Drew Gooden had his 12th game of 20 or more points… Jerryd Bayless scored 10 of his 16 points in the third quarter…