Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond claims it is his “intention’’ to re-sign Brandon Jennings.
Many NBA officials are skeptical.
Jennings, the Bucks’ starting point guard the last four seasons, is a restricted free agent. He can entertain offers from any team with the Bucks having the right to match and retain his services.
Since his arrival in Milwaukee five summers ago, though, Hammond has constantly stated he wouldn’t overpay a player — even though he has done that, most notably with his free-agent signing of Drew Gooden. Hammond gave Gooden a five-year, $32 million contract and, to say the least, it was a major mistake.
Gooden played in a mere 16 games last season, averaging a paltry 3.3 points and 1.9 rebounds. What’s more, Gooden is still on the Bucks’ books for two more seasons. He’ll be paid $6.68 million next season and the same amount the following season.
Jennings, whose pro career has been marred by erratic play on the court and immaturity off it, has consistently wavered about whether he wants to remain in Milwaukee.
After the Bucks were ousted from the Eastern Conference playoffs by Miami, Jennings, when asked if he wanted to return to the Bucks, said, “I don’t know.’’
A few weeks ago, however, Jennings said he wouldn’t mind staying in Milwaukee as long as he was “The man.’’
One thing we do know about Jennings is that he wants to be paid equally as well, if not moreso, than other prominent young point guards in the league.
Denver point guard Ty Lawson has a four-deal that will pay him an average of $11.9M a season for four seasons.
Jrue Holiday, who was just traded by Philadelphia to New Orleans, and Golden State’s Stephen Curry will be paid an average of $11M over four years.
While each of the aforementioned players enjoyed banner 2012-2013 seasons, Jennings had a roller-coaster season. He averaged 17.5 points but he also shot a dismal 39 percent during the regular season.
In the playoffs, he was a no-show. In four games against the Heat, Jennings averaged 13.3 points and four assists while shooting a paltry 29 percent from the field and 21 percent from 3-point range.
Yet, Jennings and his agent, Jeff Schwartz, apparently believe he’s better than Curry, Lawson and Holiday. Some league officials claim Jennings is seeking a contract that would pay him $12M a season.
The speculation is that Hammond doesn’t believe Jennings is worth that amount and thus is more receptive to moving Jennings in a sign-and-trade deal than he’s publicly letting on.
Of course, if the Bucks unload Jennings, they’ll need someone to replace him. The Bucks had expressed interest in ex-Golden State veteran guard Jarrett Jack, but he has made a verbal commitment to sign with Cleveland.
The Bucks are also believed to have had serious discussions about pursuing Atlanta’s Jeff Teague, a restricted free agent who is a good friend of former Hawks and current Bucks coach Larry Drew.
Interestingly, the Bucks could have selected Teague, as well as Holiday and Lawson, during the 2009 NBA draft.
But Hammond was enamored with Jennings’ supposed upside and chose him with the 10th overall pick. Holiday was taken with the 17th pick by Philadelphia, while Lawson was taken at 18 by Denver and Teague was taken at 19 by Atlanta.
So, will Jennings stay in Milwaukee or be let go?
It’ll all likely depend on whether Hammond truly believes Jennings is a cornerstone to the Bucks’ future and is willing to overpay him.
* The Bucks could be headed for a long season.
At least, that’s according to Bovada, which gives the Bucks 150/1 odds to win the 2014 NBA title.
Only four teams have worse odds than the Bucks: Charlotte and Philadelphia at 200/1 and Orlando and Phoenix at 300/1.