Figuring out which players in the draft will develop into rotation guys or stars is difficult. It gets even more difficult when players and their agents (mainly the agents) decide they are going to tell teams where they don’t want to play. This problem is one that hits home in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee is not a big market. This is news to no one. It’s the 33 (or so) largest market in the country, but that puts them into the bottom third of the NBA spectrum. So it is understandable why agents have reservations about sending their clients here. And from the players perspective, I could see why one would do whatever he could to avoid coming to Milwaukee. It is going to be freezing cold for virtually the entire season and pile about 100 inches of snow on that fact. The women of Milwaukee have been growing up eating brats and drinking beer since they turned 18 which has turned the large majority of them into…men. At least man sized. And the locals don’t especially care for a bad NBA team. So not a lot of pluses.
That would explain the Yi Jianlian fiasco in 2006. The Bucks pretty much had to take Yi. They had to prove they would not be manipulated by agents or anyone else trying to pressure them into something. The market aspect combined with the lack of a large Chinese population was obviously a big deal then. Did it factor into Yi being traded? Probably. But it was a lot easier to trade Yi once the organization realized that he wasn’t very good and was probably 25 years old without a lot of upside. (I’d like to make clear though that the Bucks were much better off making that trade than not. Without that deal the Bucks would have won 22 games last year and the culture in the locker room would still be terrible. There would once again be no hope for next season either. Charlie Villanueva would never have gotten better and it would likely have trickled down throughout the team. So yeah, it was a good basketball decision.) Would they have kept Yi if he were a good player? Tough to say. The Bucks could be faced with a similar situation this year.
In my second look at how past drafts could impact this year’s draft for the Bucks I can’t help but compare the Yi Jianlian fiasco to Brandon Jennings.
Most mock drafts I’ve looked at have Brandon Jennings falling anywhere from fourth to the Kings to seventh to Golden State. He’ll likely be gone by the time the Bucks pick. But what if Jennings fell a little in workouts? What if character issues or injury concerns push him back and he’s available at number ten? Would the Bucks take him? The folks at RealGM have Jennings dropping to the Bucks at ten, so who really knows what is going to happen.
But how would Team Jennings feel about dropping to Milwaukee? When I say Team Jennings I’m speaking primarily about Jennings agent and the folks at Under Armour. To say they have a lot invested in the career of Jennings would be an understatement. They have built their entire basketball related future on his career. The last thing Under Armour wants to have happen is for him to end up in Milwaukee. Sacramento? Probably not. Minnesota? Pass. They are looking for Golden State, D.C., or New York as the best case scenarios for teams in the top ten. New York would obviously be great from not only a media standpoint, but then he’d get to work with Mike D’Antoni, a European type coach who can transform point guards into point gods. The thing about Jennings is that he probably could just go back to Europe for another year or two, or at least hold it out there as a threat.
The problem for the small market teams is that Jennings might be really good. I mean REALLY good. The only time I’ve seen him play was at the McDonald’s All-American game a couple years back and he looked like the next big thing at point guard. I realize that I was watching a glorified pick up game, but what struck me is that all he was concerned about was setting the assist record. Any time a point guard wants to be known as a passer it means one of two things, either he is a jacker trying to fool scouts and fans alike, or he really loves the feeling of setting other guys up. I’m leaning towards the latter, only because of how natural he looked in setting up his teammates.
As for the whole Italy thing, I’m into that too. To be a point guard you need to be ballsy. Moving to Europe when you can’t get into college…that is ballsy. His European stats don’t mean all that much to me. Talk about a period of adjustment, wow. He had so much going on that performing in games was probably pretty difficult. But he probably learned more in practicing every day over there like a professional than he ever could have wasting away with that clown of a coach they had at Arizona this year. He couldn’t even get his guys to foul at the right time.
So while I’d love to have Brandon Jennings further develop himself as a star point guard and pitchman in Milwaukee, I’m realistic. The folks at Under Armour will probably not allow it. Hopefully for Jennings sake they steer him towards somewhere warm at least.