Brandon Jennings has gone back and forth about whether he wants to continue playing for the Bucks, and now he says he doesn't know whether he'd like to return, as Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel observes. Getting at the root of the point guard's true intentions appears challenging, but according to the Bucks' Twitter feed, GM John Hammond thinks that Jennings, deep down, wants to be back. We'll find out this summer if Hammond's hunch is right, and in the meantime, here's the latest on the Bucks just hours after their head coaching position came open:
After getting swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Heat, the Bucks gave their exit interviews with reporters. Milwaukee could look extremely different next season with several impact players bound for the open market and coach Jim Boylan reportedly on the hot seat. Here's more on the Bucks and other news out of the Central Division..
Brandon Jennings has made no secret of his desire to leave Milwaukee of late, having threatened to take the qualifying offer from the Bucks this summer and leave as an unrestricted free agent in 2014. He's also expressed his interest in playing with the Mavericks. Jennings backtracked those statements in an interview Thursday with Scoop Jackson of ESPN.com, and indicated he'd like to stick around.
"I said some things, you know, that I probably shouldn't have to make (the fans) think that (these might be my last days in Milwaukee)," Jennings said. "But in general I wouldn't want to leave without actually accomplishing something here and that's getting out of the first round or something like that."
The 23-year-old point guard is set to hit restricted free agency in the offseason, meaning the Bucks will have the right to match offers from other teams as long as they extend a one-year, $4.531MM qualifying offer. Jennings could command offers much greater than that, but taking the qualifying offer would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent in 2014.
If Jennings doesn't take the qualifying offer, the Bucks appear poised to match just about any offer sheet he signs with another team this summer, which likely would be for multiple years. Jackson suggests that the Bucks could choose to sign-and-trade Jennings elsewhere, a maneuver that would allow Jennings to play in another city without taking a pay cut next season. Jennings would have to consent to that, however, and his comments to Jackson indicate he'd be hesitant to do so.
"At the end of the day they have supported me here since day one," Jennings said. "The good and the bad. From my rookie year, from being a little guy that came from Italy that nobody knew about, they still had my back through it all. So at the end of the day, I still love this town and hopefully I'll be here."
This isn't the first time there's been conflicting information on Jennings. A report in February said that he and the Bucks had come to "irreconcilable differences," but Jennings responded that it wasn't true. Regardless, the former 10th overall pick hasn't made it easy to gauge his true feelings, so there will be plenty of intrigue when he and the Bucks must make their decisions in the offseason.
Cavs fans worried about what the hiring of Mike Brown might mean for the team's potential pursuit of LeBron James in 2014 shouldn't put too much stock in the move one way or the other, says Chris Broussard in his latest ESPN.com piece (Insider-only link). Brown's return to Cleveland doesn't mean LeBron is coming back too, but it also shouldn't be a deterring factor, according to Broussard, who notes that there will be plenty of other factors in play over the next 14 months. The ESPN.com scribe explores that topic and a number of others in his article, so let's round up the highlights....
In his latest NBA AM piece for HoopsWorld, Steve Kyler focuses on the playoff point guards that may be heading for free agency once their respective seasons end. Kyler has tidbits on those players, as well as notes on Eric Bledsoe and Phil Jackson, so let's check out the highlights:
As we explained a year ago when the 2011/12 regular season ended, new details of the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement have slightly modified the usual process for restricted free agency. The qualifying offers teams extend to potential restricted free agents are now based, in some instances, on a newly-defined "starter criteria."
The CBA describes a "starter" as either starting 41 games or playing 2,000 minutes in a season, and rewards players for meeting those criteria. If a player achieved one of those benchmarks in the season prior to his free agency, or averaged one of those benchmarks in the two seasons leading up to his free agency, his qualifying offer will be affected as follows:
Because the 2009 class of first-round picks will be hitting restricted free agency this season, the 2009/10 rookie scale will dictate the qualifying offers received. Using RealGM's rookie scale chart for 2009, we can calculate the qualifying offers as follows:
So which players will be affected by this new rule this summer? Using our list of free agents (restricted FAs are marked with R), the above calculations, and the starter criteria, this offseason's modified qualifying offers are listed below. Teams will have to offer these free agents a one-year contract worth the listed amount to make them restricted -- otherwise they'll become unrestricted and can freely sign with any club.
Top-14 picks who failed to meet the starter criteria and will now be eligible for a QO of $4,135,391 (previously anticipated QO in parentheses):
Players picked between 10th and 30th who met the starter criteria and will now be eligible for a QO of $4,531,459 (previously anticipated QO in parentheses):
Other free agents with three years or less in the NBA who met the starter criteria and will be eligible for a QO of $2,785,146:
Last offseason, when eight fourth-year players agreed to extend their rookie-scale contracts, the most notable extension-eligible player not to receive a new deal was Bucks guard Brandon Jennings. Multiple reports since then have suggested that Milwaukee offered a four-year, $40MM contract, which Jennings turned down. However, according to the 23-year-old, the team never formally proposed such an offer. Whether or not Jennings declined a long-term extension last offseason, he's heading for free agency this summer, and will be one of the more interesting options on the market.
Since Jennings will be a restricted free agent, the Bucks will have the right to match any offer sheet he signs with a rival team. But Jennings indicated earlier this month that he hasn't ruled out the possibility of signing Milwaukee's one-year qualifying offer, which would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2014. It's a move you might think we'd see more often from young players unhappy with their teams or their situations, since simply extending a rookie scale contract by one more year gives a player the freedom to choose his own destination the following summer.
Still, for marquee restricted free agents, signing that one-year qualifying offer is extremely rare. Even though a player may not want to commit long-term to the team that holds his rights, there's plenty of risk in passing up a big payday in the hopes that he'll still be able to sign a similar long-term deal 12 months later. Poor performance or a serious injury could adversely affect a player's value while he plays out that one-year contract, which could end up costing him millions of dollars on his next deal -- just ask Andrew Bynum how far a player's stock can drop in a single season.
In Jennings' case, the one-year qualifying offer from the Bucks will be worth about $4.53MM. So not only would accepting that QO mean postponing his free agency a year and risking a drop in his stock, but he'd be passing up the opportunity to earn an eight-digit salary immediately in 2013/14. Maybe he'd be able to make up that money later in his career, but NBA stars typically don't make a habit of giving up $5MM+ in salary in their age-24 seasons. As such, I don't expect Jennings to sign that one-year qualifying offer.
If we assume Jennings will be seeking long-term offers, it's worth exploring how big those offers might be. There's been a debate recently about whether Wizards guard John Wall deserves a maximum-salary contract, or whether he's worth such a deal, and the same argument could be had about Jennings. The Bucks guard is averaging 18.3 PPG and 6.8 APG this season, with a .403 FG% and a 16.7 PER, numbers that are good but not elite. Jennings doesn't stack up particularly favorably to players like Ty Lawson and Stephen Curry, who signed four-year extensions for between $40-50MM last October. So if we're debating whether Jennings "deserves" the max, which figures to be $60MM+ for four years or $80MM+ for five years, the answer is probably no.
Still, as The Wire's Snoop once said, "deserve got nothin' to do with it." In free agency, a player's stats and his potential play a part in his price, but there are a number of other factors involved as well. For the Bucks or another team, overpaying Jennings may be worthwhile if the club has a glaring need and believes there aren't many appealing alternatives out there.
When Eric Gordon signed a max-salary offer sheet with the Suns last summer, an offer that was eventually matched by the Hornets, I would have argued that he wasn't necessarily "worth" the max. But there were at least two teams with the space and the willingness to pay that price. When Jennings hits free agency, there will be plenty of teams with the space, and it only takes one desperate club to make a big offer, which would leave the Bucks with a big decision. That's not to say I believe Jennings will definitely earn a maximum offer this July, but I'll be surprised if he doesn't sign a contract worth more than either Curry's or Lawson's deal, simply because he'll have multiple potential bidders in the mix, giving him leverage.
Who might those bidders be? I'd certainly expect the Bucks to be a primary player, though the club may simply wait for Jennings to sign an offer sheet elsewhere, then decide whether to match it, rather than negotiating directly with him. There's been reported mutual interest between Jennings and the Mavs, a team that will have the cap space to make him a big offer. The Jazz are also seeking a long-term solution at point guard, though I would guess they'd probably prefer a player who would be a facilitator first and a scorer second. The Hawks and Pistons are among the other teams expected to have a huge amount of cap space and a hole or two in the backcourt.
Given the extensions signed by other fourth-year players last October, four years and $40MM sounds like a reasonable price for Jennings, but now that he's headed for the open market, I expect that price to rise. By the time the dust clears in July, I could see Jennings landing a four-year deal worth north of $50MM, and I think the Bucks are the best bet to end up with him. Maybe Jennings surprises us by accepting a one-year qualifying offer with an eye toward escaping Milwaukee in 2014, or maybe the Bucks surprise us by letting Jennings walk to a rival suitor. But a long-term contract between the two sides makes the most sense to me, since it would give Jennings financial security and would allow the Bucks to hang on to one of their most valuable assets.
About a month ago, ESPN.com's Chris Broussard cited multiple sources in reporting that Brandon Jennings turned down a four-year, $40MM extension offer from the Bucks prior to the season. Last week, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports heard the same thing from a source of his own.
At the time of Broussard's initial report, Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times tweeted that the Bucks never made a four-year, $40MM offer to Jennings. In the wake of Spears' recent report, Woelfel took to Twitter again today, noting that Jennings himself said he wasn't offered such a deal.
Broussard and Spears are typically reliable sources of information, and the fact that they each identified the same years and dollar amounts in independent reports suggests to me that there's something there. Perhaps those terms were discussed but never officially put on the table by the Bucks, or perhaps something was lost in translation between Jennings and former agent Bill Duffy.
Whether or not the Bucks formally extended a four-year, $40MM offer to Jennings, the fourth-year guard was unlikely to accept it. As Spears reported last week, Jennings hasn't ruled out signing a qualifying offer from Milwaukee this summer, which would keep him under contract for one more year before he could become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2014. If he does explore a long-term contract this summer, I expect him to receive an offer more lucrative than four years and $40MM on the open market, considering how many teams are expected to have significant cap room.
Brandon Jennings is considering a move that would make him an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2014, reports Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. He's set to become a restricted free agent this summer, but if the Bucks make him a one-year qualifying offer to retain the right to match offers from other teams in the offseason, as they'll almost assuredly do, Jennings is free to take it. If he does so, next season will be his last in Milwaukee, as he tells Spears.
"If I take the qualifying offer and become an [unrestricted] free agent there is no way I am coming back," Jennings said. "There is no way."
Doing so would be a bold move for Jennings and new agent Jeff Schwartz, who could command much more than the $4.33MM Jennings would make on the qualifying offer. Still, it would allow him to ensure an early exit from the Bucks, who Jennings insists must upgrade their roster and turn their organization into a championship-caliber operation in order to retain him long-term, according to Spears.
"I just want to win," the point guard said. "The way I am playing now, I just want to go to a winning team and play like that. I don't care about being a superstar or being the main guy. I did that [the] first four years. I just want to win and be somewhere where it's all about winning. I'm not saying the Bucks aren't about winning. But I think [a title caliber situation] will help me, motivate my game and then you have to perform."
Bucks GM John Hammond said he'd be surprised if Jennings takes the QO, but added that he's "not taken aback" by his point guard's pronouncement, believing it to be "a natural discussion to have." Jennings, who turned down a four-year, $40MM extension before the season, indicated he could be dissuaded from taking the qualifying offer if the Bucks grant him a lucrative deal this summer.
Jennings last month confirmed his interest in signing with the Mavs in the offseason. Dallas will have plenty of cap room to make him an offer up to the maximum, but Milwaukee would have the ability to match any deal he signs with another team. If, for instance, Jennings signed a four-year deal with the Mavs, the Bucks could match it, and Jennings would be tethered to Milwaukee until 2017.
The Bucks possess an advantage over other teams this summer, since they alone could offer Jennings five years instead of four in his next contract. They could also offer him raises for 7.5% instead of 4.5% if they were to give him a max deal, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors examined when he looked at players likely to receive max deals this summer. Jennings is the last player on that list, but it's unclear if the Bucks or any other team considers the 23-year-old a max player.
While J.J. Redick was the biggest name moved at last month's trade deadline, he doesn't figure to be among the top tier of free agents available this summer. Still, Redick should attract plenty of interest on the open market. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Bucks are expected to make a strong bid for Redick in free agency, with the team prepared to pay him like a starting shooting guard.
Redick, Monta Ellis, and Brandon Jennings will all become free agents this summer, assuming Ellis turns down his 2013/14 player option. In that case, the Bucks figure to re-sign either Jennings or Ellis, along with Redick, according to Wojnarowski, who says that if the former Blue Devil leaves the Bucks, "he'll have to take less money -- probably a lot."
With Redick's Bird Rights in hand, the Bucks are in good position to outbid rival suitors. The 28-year-old will attract offers larger than the mid-level exception, so only teams with cap space figure to be contenders for his services, unless Milwaukee is willing to work out a sign-and-trade.
For his part, Redick tells Wojnarowski he's had "a lot of fun" with the Bucks so far, and the fact that Milwaukee was so active in pursuing him last month is something he'll definitely consider when he weighs his options this summer.
"To be wanted here - to be wanted anywhere in the league - is something I'll never take for granted," Redick said.