The Milwaukee Bucks had a chance to grab a point guard in the 2013 NBA Draft. When the 15th selection rolled around, guards Shane Larkin and Dennis Schröder were still available, and both would have conceivably afforded the Bucks a little flexibility in how they addressed the position in free agency. But GM John Hammond elected to take Greek forward Giannis Antetokounmpo instead, calling him the "best player available" after the selection. The pick left the void in Milwaukee's backcourt just as wide, with only Ish Smith under contract for next season. But according to Hammond, speaking at a press conference to introduce Antetokounmpo and 2nd-round pick Nate Wolters, they have a plan when it comes to their incumbent point guard, Brandon Jennings:
Bucks general manager John Hammond said "it's our intention for Brandon Jennings to remain a Milwaukee Buck."— cfgardner (@cf_gardner) June 28, 2013
The Bucks have extended a qualifying offer to Jennings, allowing them to match any offer sheet he might sign with another team as a restricted free agent. Hammond said Milwaukee wouldn't just wait to see what Jennings was able to get from another organization, but that they would be negotiating with him throughout the July process.
Jennings' free-agency prospects surely took a hit during last night's draft, as a number of potential destination teams were able to address their needs via the draft or trade. Atlanta grabbed Schröder while Dallas selected Larkin, and the Jazz traded up to pick Trey Burke. The Pelicans received Jrue Holiday in a trade with the 76ers, who took Michael Carter-Williams. There are plenty of teams who need the sort of scoring Jennings can provide at his best, but will any be willing to shell out a big-money deal, especially if he's not necessarily going to be a starter? The likelihood definitely seems lower today than it did 24 hours ago.
What this means for the Bucks is a difficult question to answer at this juncture. The Bucks' first-round pick was undeniably a play for the future, as Antetokounmpo isn't likely to make much positive impact on the team for a year or two. But the team still has a lot of roster spots to fill and could have significant cap space to do it, leaving open the possibility for a veteran-fueled playoff push in the coming season. Jennings' approximate $8 million cap hold doesn't kill the Bucks' flexibility too much, especially if they renounce Monta Ellis and amnesty Drew Gooden. This would allow them to sign a few vets and then use Bird Rights to re-up Jennings. But if they're set on retaining him and think he can be signed for a lower amount (which seemed like a huge stretch just a few months ago), they'd be better off doing it as soon as possible.
This completely ignores the ultimate question of whether keeping Jennings at any price is a good move for the Bucks. Plenty of fans soured on his after a bad 2012-2013 season, filled with a lot of charged dialogue, but let's not forget that his career was trending up after his junior season, when he had an 18.4 PER and .114 WS/48. If the Bucks think this past season was just a collection of bad voodoo, and are able to get him at a discount as a result, maybe it's not a bad move. On a new deal, jointly negotiated, the impetus to keep him in a starter's role is lessened, meaning he could be deployed more effectively if a replacement is found. On the other hand, if Jennings is what he is at this point, a sign-and-trade arrangement might be the best possible outcome for all parties. But nobody should want to see this thing reach qualifying offer status, which basically precludes anybody getting what they want.