Man, just yesterday I decided it was safe for me to assess how the Pistons were looking and how the Eastern Conference was stacking up. Oh, nothing notable is likely to happen, I said. We’re all just waiting for Brandon Jennings to re-sign with Milwaukee, I said. Now, and presumably just to spite me, the Detroit Pistons have reportedly traded for Jennings.
The deal isn’t official yet, but all the usual outlets are reporting it, so I presume at this point it is all about i dotting and t crossing. According to the reports, the Pistons will receive Jennings, and in term send the Bucks Brandon Knight, Slava Kravstov, and Khris Middleton. Of course, since Jennings was a restricted free agent, a deal also had to be struck, and so the report is that the Pistons have signed, or will sign, Jennings to a three-year deal worth “in excess” of $25 million. So, basically, a little more than 25 million is my guess. That’s what ESPN is saying, at least. Other places are saying three years and $24 million. In the end, it’s going to be between eight and nine million.
Well, there were all those rumors about Rajon Rondo maybe becoming a Piston, but instead they decided to get Jennings, which cost them less than Rondo would have. Kravstov and Middleton are just fodder as far as I am concerned. The former is tall, the latter could maybe do something, but I think they don’t have much to provide. So, this basically comes down to Jennings for Knight and, personally, I’ll take Jennings out of the two.
Knight is young, sure. He’s only 21, and won’t turn 22 until December. There is still a lot of potential there. However, up to this point, he has not led me to believe he can be a point guard. He feels like a combo guard, maybe an undersized shooting guard. He can shoot, and he’s quite good from behind the three-point arc. He’s also averaging 3.9 assists and 2.7 turnovers per game in his (admittedly short) career. I don’t feel like Knight has the ball distribution abilities needed to be even a shoot first point guard. I think he can be a good player, but with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope around, the Pistons don’t really need a shooting guard. I mean, they might, because we don’t know what KCP will be, but if KCP is any good, Knight could be redundant if he doesn’t become a point guard.
Jennings is… polarizing. He’s been a focal point of hoops fans ever since he eschewed college to go play a year overseas before getting drafted. He seems like sort of an eccentric dude, but he’s also only 23 years old, and already has four seasons of statistics for us to look at. He’s averaging 17.0 points, 5.7 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.4 turnovers per game in his career. Last year, he had his best assist season, 6.5 per game, but he also had a career high 2.5 turnovers too. This is in part because he was distributing the ball more, shooting a bit less.
This is good, because he had shooting issues last season. He only had a .399 field goal percentage. However, he shot at a .418 clip the year before, and he set a career high in three-point percentage (.375) and free throw percentage (.819). His true shooting percentage was 51.0, which is about what he was the season before. His PER last season was 16.20, which is above average but not great, but the year before he was at 18.46. His defense is… spotty, but he’s young. Not Knight young, but young.
Plus, Jennings scored over 50 points in a game as rookie. Will he ever do that again? Likely not, but it takes a certain amount of skill to do that at an NBA level. Skill I don’t think Knight has. Jennings’ first two seasons were better than Knight’s, and the Pistons are looking to make the playoffs in the next couple years. They don’t need to wait on Jennings. He’s a good player now, with the potential to be really good. They’ve signed him to a reasonable deal, and now they have a clear starting five. Jennings is more of a true point guard, albeit not a Chris Paul-type ball distributor. I really like this deal for the Pistons.
I don’t know if the Pistons will make the playoffs now that they have Jennings. I do think they are a better team with better chances. I also think this hurts Milwaukee’s chances. The Pistons have acquired a good player for his mid-20s. If he turns out to be really good, they can re-sign him. If not, then they simply can let him walk away in three years. The Josh Smith deal I was iffy on. This Jennings trade I am all for.