This draft has been as negatively received as any draft in the last ten years. Pundits are saying only two or three of these guys are really going to make a huge impact on the league. Word is that most of these guys are going to end up as role players or guys buried on the deep end of the bench. At number ten, the Bucks were not supposed to be in position to get a significant contributor. But, the more time I take to think about it, the more my mind settles on two facts.
- Going to Europe is not a great move for high school players draft stock.
- Brandon Jennings is going to be a big deal
Rome looks like a beautiful place. The buildings are romantic, classical and have deeper and richer history than anything America has to offer. The food is often replicated but never duplicated in America. The best Italian food I’ve had in Milwaukee would be the pizza served by the good folks at Barbieres on Bluemound Road. Not exactly Acquapazza. Romulus and Remus are twin legends. The Colosseum, The Pantheon, Michaelangelo, I could go on and on. I’ve never been there, but it’d be on my top five international destinations. Now, if you’re a terrific high school basketball player whose absolute desire is to be drafted in the top five of the NBA draft, take all those great things about Rome/Italy and throw them away. Don’t even think about them. Because Rome destroyed Brandon Jennings draft stock.
If players don’t want to deal with the NCAA’s rules and regulations and exploitation, I understand that. Going to Europe is a terrific move if a players motivation is financial. Instead of worrying about the long arms of the NCAA law, Jennings got to focus on basketball everyday and sign a deal as the face of Under Armour basketball. Between the lucrative deal he signed to play his year in Europe, the Under Armour contract and his NBA rookie deal, Jennings now has money to set his family up for many many years to come. But the “Brandon Jennings Route” is equivalent to slacking in high school Spanish for four years and then moving to Mexico.
Sure, you have an idea of the language and probably think you’ll pick up the intricacies of it in a few weeks, but you won’t. People their have been speaking it their whole lives. Just like they wouldn’t pick up on me making jokes to my friends about their mothers, I wouldn’t get a lot of their language. It was easy for us to all assume that someone as talented as Jennings would be able to pick up European basketball with ease and take over games by the end of the season, but I don’t think any of us gives enough weight to the differences in the European game and the American game. Jennings noted that he’ll have to get out of the habit of hand-checking and grabbing since that is common practice in European defense. Apparently so is jerking around the minutes of talented player. Like a lot of NBA rookies, Jennings would sometimes play 30 minutes, and sometimes play six. And he was playing it out of position. People were lining up around the block to make the excuse for Jrue Holiday that he was playing the two and not the one at UCLA (admittedly, I would have been making the same excuse if the Bucks drafted him), well imagine doing that and learning a whole new brand of basketball with some grown men all over.
Yes, not only was Jennings now dealing with a new position, hand-checking, pulling and grabbing, but he was dealing with it from grown-ass men. There were no crappy little guys at the end of the bench. The guys at the ends of the bench were still bigger than your average college player and tons more physical to boot.
So forgive me if I give little credence to Jennings one season experiment in a brand new world. We forget so quickly the great player Jennings was in high school. He didn’t win the Naismith High School Player of the Year on accident. He averaged over 30 points a game at Oak Hill Academy. That’s the home of Ron Mercer, Rajon Rondo, Josh Smith, Jerry Stackhouse, Carmelo Anthony, Rod Strickland and Stephen Jackson among others. They don’t just hand out awards like that to anyone. Jennings is a special player. He calls himself “Young Money” and appropriately enough he’s young, a little slight and he makes me think of this. But I’m okay with that. The Bucks haven’t had swagger since Don Nelson left. Isn’t it time the Bucks turn their swag back on? And who better to lead them into the light of swagger than Young Money?
And if I ever see him on a segway (2:20 of video) riding down Water Street, then I know the Bucks have officially found their point guard of the future.