It's been a busy few days for the Milwaukee Bucks; the RJ Giveaway Extravaganza (now featuring Amir Johnson!) rocked the NBA immediately preceding the draft. At least until Shaq and VC went to different teams earlier today and tWWL decided to focus on the Cleveland LeBrons and the Orlando Magic. The Jefferson trade itself was both a shrewd financial move and a disappointing talent loss. For 2009-10, I'm not thrilled with the way it went down, because that means another mediocre season. But I understand the corner the front office had to get out of, and I appreciate the way they got out of it. I hate myself for saying it, but the team is built for next year, not this year.
The biggest part of the trade, by most accounts, was giving the Bucks unprecedented flexibility on the issue of resigning Ramon Sessions and Charlie Villanueva. The national media regards Charlie V as the priority player, but folks around here know Memo's the main man. We should (hopefully) see news on this front by July 1st.
The draft, however, may have already given us a clue. Brandon Jennings' slide/being exactly where he belonged at 10, in addition to Jordan Hill and Jonny Flynn going to New York and Minnesota (respectively), made Hammond's choice between Jrue Holiday and Jennings a bit easier. In the end, he went with Jennings, and it may show a preference for the club to resign Villanueva first, then attend to Sessions. The fact that Jodie Meeks (who was a GREAT pick; scoring off the bench? Yes, please.) was taken in the 2nd, and there was no visible effort to acquire a PF further reinforces this sentiment.
Villanueva is a frustrating player because he's so big and talented, but insists on playing outside-in instead of the other way around. But if he leaves, Andrew Bogut is the only post presence on the team, and he hasn't shown an ability to produce consistently on offense. The Bucks can't afford to become a clone of the 08-09 Orlando Magic; Bogut is not Dwight Howard, and Michael Redd is the only Buck that can consistently hit the 3. They need to have good penetration and good passing, but most importantly, they need scoring inside. Villanueva can provide that (even if he doesn't like to), and since he's the only player on the roster who can, he almost has to stay.
Jennings has been somewhat of an enigma ever since turning down Arizona in favor of playing overseas in Italy. People know how skilled and freakishly athletic he is, but they cite his lack of production in Europe as evidence that he's just not ready for the NBA. And they're probably right.
This video shows exactly what Jennings is: an immensely skilled point guard with great speed, great passing, but an unreliable jumper. He'll blow by his man like Allen Iverson in his prime, and he'll make a pass so difficult only Steve Nash in his. But his jump shot is like LeBron James' circa 2005; the range is there, but the form is off. Great elevation, but his release point needs to be honed, as does his tendency to lean back over himself and kick out his legs. Will that ever be fixed? Perhaps not, but as long as he can hit the wide open ones, I'll be happy.
His main competition for playing time will be Ramon Sessions, if Sessions is re-signed. Sure, Luke Ridnour is still on the team, but in a season where we're almost assured a sub-.500 record, he should not be taking minutes from the two younger PG's.
Sessions is an intruiging young player who has put up some crazy numbers over his 1.5 seasons. He's not a great athlete, but has good size for the pros. His speed is adequate, as is his defense. Where he's special is when he can get penetration on the defense and use that pressure to distribute the ball or draw fouls. This is mitigated somewhat by his sub-par dribbling skills (a trait an NBA point guard should not at all have), but it hasn't really shown yet.
In a way, Jennings and Sessions are polar opposites of each other. Jennings is lightning-quick, Sessions is not. Jennings is almost tiny, Sessions is not. Jennings will often look for his own shot, Sessions does not. Jennings takes risks and makes poor decisions, Sessions does not. But what does this mean for the Bucks in both the short and long term?
If Sessions does not get resigned and is taken away by another team, then the answer is simple; let Ridnour man the point until Jennings is ready to handle more than 20-25 minutes a night. By "ready to handle", I'm not suggesting that Jennings can't play, but rather that Jennings can't play the NBA game just yet. He will start off his career by fouling too much, taking too many chances on defense, attempting too difficult of passes on offense, and generally being a pain in the neck for Scott Skiles. If he commits himself to learning the game, though, he will improve very quickly and hopefully be able to keep pace with the Derrick Rose's and Rajon Rondo's of the league.
However, if Sessions is resigned, then Jennings' role might take a different path. He'll surely start on the bench, and probably finish his first season there too. He'll compete with Sessions (and possibly Ridnour if he hasn't been traded yet), but be forced to take less than 20 minutes a night. Unless he can conform his game to Skiles' vision, he will be yanked early and often in favor of Memo if he makes too many mistakes. That sort of thing can take its toll on a player with an ego like Jennings', which will most definitely affect his standing with the team.
I want Jennings to succeed here; if he puts it all together, he can be the type of star player the city has lacked for 30+ years. He's a crazy mix of Allen Iverson, Chris Paul, and Rajon Rondo who can dish the rock and get his as well. (He's still a kid and a bit of a headcase, and I'm purposefully going to leave that issue and its potential affects on his game for another day.) But if the club is committed to resigning Ramon Sessions and unable to trade Luke Ridnour, Jennings' future in Milwaukee is cloudy.
In short, I think that keeping all three point guards (Sessions, Ridnour, and Jennings) on the team looks good on paper, but is a mistake. Somebody's going to get the short end of the stick; there's only 48 minutes to go around. Here's my ranked list of preferences of which combinations to keep (* denotes starter)
- Ridnour*, Jennings
- Sessions*, Jennings
- Sessions*, Jennings, Ridnour
I know, it seems blasphemous to prefer keeping Ridnour to Sessions. But if letting Sessions go means that Jennings gets a chance to develop into the star he can be, I think it's a necessary sacrifice. If (and that's a big if) Ridnour gets moved and the coaching staff finds a way to make Jennings and Sessions co-exist, then so much the better. But I have my doubts.