|Jennings has made it clear that he wants to leave Milwaukee as soon as possible. The problem is that he's a restricted free agent after this season, which makes that departure date unknown|
The 2012-13 season has been an interesting one for the Milwaukee Bucks, to say the least.
They started off the campaign 6-2, shooting out of the gate and giving their long-depressed fans hope that the unconventional backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings could be successful. Then, they lost four of six, evening up their record at 8-8. Since then, with a three-to-four game cushion both above and below .500, they have been dwelling in mediocrity, hovering around that even record mark for much of the season.
Also, they surprised the NBA world by dealing for the Magic's J.J. Redick at the Trade Deadline, acquiring the sharpshooter along with Ish Smith and Gustavo Ayon for young swingmen Doron Lamb, Tobias Harris, and veteran point-man Beno Udrih. The trade confused many at the time, as gaining Redick gave the already-backcourt-deep Bucks yet another shooting guard and offense-first player to get serious minutes in the rotation.
And now, as the season winds down, with his team firmly entrenched as the Eastern Conference's eighth seed, general manager John Hammond is forced to finally deal with what is going to happen this offseason, after Milwaukee gets inevitably bounced in the first round by the Heat.
One could say that the 2013 offseason represents a perfect storm of situations for Milwaukee to deal with. Such a moniker would be appropriate as this summer is when Jennings' and Ellis' contracts both expire.
However, each one has a deal with slightly different implications that complicate the situation a bit.
Jennings' contract leaves him a restricted free agent in a few months, which gives other teams the chance to sign him to an offer sheet that Milwaukee would match or allows Jennings to sign a one-year qualifying offer which would make him unrestricted in next year's free agency session. It is looking more likely that he would consider going down the qualifying offer path, allowing him to get his wish of leaving Milwaukee in as soon as next offseason.
As for Ellis, the former Warrior has a player option for next season which will pay him $11 million for the 2013-14 should he choose to exercise the option. In one of the rarer cases seen with this type of contract, one would think that the Bucks would want Ellis to decline the option, as having someone with Monta's inefficiency on offense and general disinterest in defense on the roster for the exorbitant price of $11 million for one year is not optimal in the slightest for a team, like the Bucks, that would want as much salary flexibility this summer as is possible.
In recent news, it appears that Ellis is leaning toward exercising the player option in his current contract, a development that would, in all likelihood, leave Milwaukee with both guards next season, but without both of them the year after, when they would each go into unrestricted free agency.
Should Ellis decline the option, Milwaukee would get a head start on its rebuilding process, allowing the Bucks to possibly pursue other restricted free agent point guards like Tyreke Evans, Jeff Teague, and Darren Collison. Or, without Monta's contract on the books, the Bucks could make an all-out attempt to convince Jennings to stay with the team after his qualifying offer expires by going for bigger names in free agency or the trading market.
Either way the Monta and Jennings situations play out for Milwaukee, the Bucks are left in a tough place.
The only thing that is close to certain at this point is that next year (if that) will be Jennings' last with the team, which means that the rebuilding franchise will be losing a young, talented, high-scoring, and cheap cornerstone. And when that is the closest thing to a known fact on any team's roster, it is the furthest thing from a good sign.