Milwaukee Bucks v Atlanta Hawks, Game 1

Bucks now intend to keep Brandon Jennings


It was only a couple of days ago that the Milwaukee Bucks were rumored to be open to the idea of trading Brandon Jennings.

Not that teams would be lining up with offers, of course, considering that Jennings is a restricted free agent and they could just sign him to a larger offer sheet than the Bucks may have been willing to match.

But it was out there, and while Milwaukee will still likely listen to offers for any of its players, the team’s general manager John Hammond has come out and said that the intention now is to retain Jennings’ services.

From Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Hammond said the team will be aggressive in trying to sign point guard Brandon Jennings to a long-term contract when free agency opens Monday. League teams are allowed to discuss contracts from Monday through July 10 when the moratorium ends and contracts can be signed.

“It’s our intention for Brandon Jennings to remain a Milwaukee Buck,” Hammond said. “We’re hoping to negotiate with him fairly through the July process.

“At the conclusion of our negotiations, if we have not reached a deal and they choose to go out and seek an opportunity in the open market, our intention then would still be to match.”

This is how rookie contracts work in the NBA, so Jennings does not have a choice where he will play next season if in fact the Bucks are willing to match any offer he receives. But if he isn’t happy in Milwaukee, or believes his value will be greater after another year, he only has to play for the Bucks for one more season.

Jennings could choose to forego a multi-year payday in favor of playing for the qualifying offer the Bucks made him of $4.3 million next season. After that, he would be an unrestricted free agent, with the ability to play anywhere he chooses.

Jennings averaged 17.5 points and 6.5 assists per game last season, but shot just 39.9 percent from the field. Some of that is due to the way the Bucks use him, but there’s definitely room for improvement in Jennings’ overall game.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.