There's been a lot of talk about the Detroit Pistons trying to acquire Boston Celtics' point guard Rajon Rondo via trade. After the Celtics turned down the Pistons' second trade offer Sunday, an offer that included third-year guard Brandon Knight and the expiring contract of either Charlie Villanueva or Rodney Stuckey, Pistons' GM Joe Dumars has been sent back to the drawing board once again. Many have speculated that the Celtics wouldn't send Rondo to the Pistons for anyone short of Andre Drummond, but the Pistons aren't expected to part ways with their centerpiece of the future for anyone anytime soon, and certainly not for the ACL-injured Rondo. If the Pistons cannot get Rondo, but still want to improve their status at point guard, they may have to look elsewhere in the trade market.
The Pistons have reportedly not been in contact with another trade partner for a point guard, but one possible trade option could be Brandon Jennings of the Milwaukee Bucks.
How the Jennings-Bucks bridge was burned
Before free agency began on July 1st, Jennings was one of the bigger names to not be circulating throughout the free agent rumor mill. As Jennings is a restricted free agent, and had publicly voiced his desire to remain in Milwaukee, many league GMs stayed away from Jennings and pursued other options (unrestricted options) for their point guard needs. The Mavericks, who were believed to have been a possible landing spot for Jennings, signed Jose Calderon to a four-year, $29 million deal. The Atlanta Hawks, another rumored landing spot for Jennings, matched the four-year $32 million contract that Jennings' own Bucks offered to the Hawks' restricted free agent point guard Jeff Teague –the move solved the Hawks' point guard need by retaining Teague, and it's also the reason Jennings might be available in a trade.
The Sporting News is reporting that according to a source close to the situation, Jennings does not want to go back to play with the Bucks next season after sitting and watching the team court Teague. Jennings reportedly wants between $41-48 million dollars for four years, a major reason why the Bucks pursued Teague at a four-year $32 million price tag. With the bad blood between Jennings and the Bucks now boiling, it's expected that Jennings will either sign a one-year qualifying offer with the Bucks for $4.5 million before entering unrestricted free agency next offseason for his pay day, or take part in a sign-and-trade where he'd likely earn his $41-48 million from the team he agrees to be traded to.
Jennings vs. Rondo
For his career, Jennings is a 17.0 points per game scorer with a 5.7 assists per game average. Last season saw Jennings' averages in points and assists improve to 17.5 points per game and 6.5 assists. Rondo averaged a double-double last season while taking on a bigger role with the Ray Allen-less Celtics (13.7 points per game, 11.1 assists per game). Rondo is the better point guard option right now, but Jennings is only 23 years old and has already proven himself as a consistent scorer (39.4 career field goal percentage) who can shoot the ball from behind the arc at close to 40-percent (something the Pistons' backcourt lacked last season when Knight ran the point). Jennings' scoring, in addition to the improvement he showed as a distributor last season, could make him a viable option for the Pistons should they decide to pursue a point guard trade outside of a Rondo deal.
It's also important to note that while acquiring Rondo from the Celtics now would lock-up the point guard until the end of the 2014-15 season for $11 million per year, the then-30 year old point guard will be looking for a max player contract when his current deal is done; money that could go towards paying Andre Drummond in the 2015-16 offseason. While paying Jennings $12 million now might seem high, the four-year deal might be the cheaper option in the long run, as the young core of the Pistons develops and will have to be retained beyond their respective rookie deals. Jennings is also young enough to develop along with the Pistons young core of Drummond and Kentavius Caldwell-Pope (the two players the Pistons are hinging their hopes on). It's also not a set-in-stone statement to say that the Pistons would have to pay Jennings' $12 million in a sign and trade, they could possibly get him for $10 million with the threat of next offseason's strong free agent class making Jennings' ability to make "more" a little difficult as an unrestricted free agent.
As Drummond is not an option for trade (as mentioned earlier), and Caldwell-Pope is also not an option for trade (Dumars wouldn't trade the rookie for Jennings), the question becomes what the Pistons would likely have to give up to acquire Jennings in a sign-and-trade.
What it would take: Jennings to Detroit
While the Pistons would at least have to give up both Monroe, Knight and both expiring contracts of Stuckey and Villanueva in exchange for Rondo and a bad Celtics contract in return (many believe Gerald Wallace at three-years, $30 million), the Pistons would likely only have to surrender either Knight or Monroe and a single expiring contract for Jennings. With the Bucks recently signing Zaza Pachulia to an already crowded frontcourt, the Bucks might prefer to get Knight (a guard for guard deal) and an expiring contract in return for Jennings. This would also work out for the Pistons, as they'd much rather part ways with Knight as they've already shown in their most recent trade offer with Boston, than part ways with Monroe. A trade for Jennings is also less likely to include a second player with a bad multi-year contract, allowing the Pistons to keep some of their cap space for next year's offseason or this year's trade deadline.
If it's a choice between Rondo or Jennings, the choice is clearly Rondo. But as it stands now, the Pistons don't have a choice between either. The Celtics have now refused two offers, and there's no way to tell if the Pistons even have enough without offering Drummond to acquire Rondo in a one-on-one, two team trade with Boston. It's clear the Pistons are looking to get better at point guard, and trading out Knight for Jennings would make the Pistons better at point guard. Yes, Rondo is the more polished floor general compared to Jennings. Still, if Pistons' head coach Maurice Cheeks was highly touted for his work with emotional, loose cannon scorer Russel Westbrook, wouldn't it make sense that his coaching philosophy would work with the explosive scoring guard mentality of Jennings? Perhaps, but there's no way to tell without first opening trade talks with the Bucks for Jennings.
This offseason is about getting better, and right now the only way to get better is via trade. The Pistons can get better without acquiring Rondo, and Jennings is one of those ways.