Bucks deal Jennings to Pistons
MILWAUKEE--Brandon Jennings' summer-long saga is over.
The Milwaukee Bucks agreed in principle to a sign-and-trade deal with the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday, according to a league source, sending Jennings to the Pistons in return for point guard Brandon Knight, small forward Khris Middleton and center Viacheslav Kravstov.
Jennings agreed to a three-year, $24 million deal to be signed by the Bucks, who then will trade him to a revamped Pistons team also featuring forward Josh Smith, signed earlier this summer in free agency by Detroit.
Jennings' departure signals a true rebuilding effort by the Bucks, who will not be locked into a long-term contract with a point guard. Instead they will have veteran Luke Ridnour, Knight and second-round pick Nate Wolters, in addition to Ish Smith.
Detroit also has been active this offseason, signing free agents Josh Smith, Chauncey Billups and Luigi Datome along with bringing back Will Bynum.
The Pistons signed Billups in part to mentor Knight, but have chosen to replace him with Jennings. They’re in a win-now mode, and must figure Jennings gives them a better shot to have success this season than Knight, who hasn’t shown he can be a reliable point guard.
Milwaukee drafted Jennings 10th overall in 2009 out of Oak Hill Academy and he averaged 17 points, 5.7 assists and 2.4 turnovers over four seasons with the Bucks, who could’ve matched any offer made to the restricted free agent this offseason. He averaged a career-high 6.5 assists and 17.5 points last season, a year after averaging a career-best 19.1 points a game.
Instead of keeping a player who might not have wanted to stay, the Bucks are adding to their depth with another young point guard and two players. Detroit drafted Knight eighth overall in 2011 out of Kentucky. He averaged 13.1 points, 3.9 assists and 2.7 turnovers.
The 6-foot-11 Kravtsov averaged 3.1 points and 1.8 rebounds in 25 games last season as a rookie. Middleton, a second-round pick last year from Texas A&M, averaged 6.1 points in 27 games.
The Bucks, coming off their first postseason in three years, also were finalizing a two-year deal for just under $6 million with free agent combo guard Gary Neal.
After starting his career overseas playing in Italy, Spain and Greece, Neal spent the first three seasons of his NBA career with the San Antonio Spurs. He earned a spot on the team after a standout performance in summer league play, then quietly emerged as a potent scorer off the bench for one of the best teams in the West. Neal averaged 9.7 points and shot 38.9 percent from 3-point range in his three seasons in San Antonio.
His 24 points helped the Spurs to a 36-point win in Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. The Spurs abruptly pulled a qualifying offer from Neal last week after agreeing to terms with shooting guard Marco Bellinelli. Suddenly a free agent, Neal said he is looking forward to joining the Bucks, where coach Larry Drew told him there’s an opportunity for a more featured role.
“In San Antonio you had the expectation of being a team that’s going to be in the playoffs or make it to the Western Conference finals every year,” Neal said in a telephone interview. “Even though Milwaukee doesn’t have those same expectations nationally, I have an opportunity to play a bigger role and a bigger part here. As a competitor you look for that situation. This is the first time I’ve had this role in the NBA.”
Neal will help add some scoring punch to a backcourt that lost Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick earlier this summer.
“For the most part it’s just something I’m excited about and happy about,” Neal said. “Especially talking to coach Drew and ownership, it’s something that has me excited. I kind of wish we could start tomorrow.”