In an unexpected move, the New York Knicks decided to waive backup point guard Brandon Jennings earlier this week, making him a free agent once he clears waivers.
Reportedly, Jennings was released after telling Knicks brass that he wanted to play for a playoff team. Since the Knicks are comfortably out of the playoff picture, they decided to waive Jennings so he and the team could pursue other opportunities. As soon as the news broke, a number of teams expressed their interest in the veteran point guard and rumors started flying about which team he would end up with. As time passed, the rumor that seemed to gain the most traction was that Jennings would end up with the Washington Wizards. These rumors came to a head with the announcement that he had a ‘verbal agreement’ to join the Wizards should he clear waivers.
According to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Jennings is headed to DC right now with his agent to sign a contract with the Wizards that will run through the end of the season. So ultimately the question becomes, what does the addition of Jennings mean for the Wizards going forward?
First and foremost, the Wizards will need to waive one player from their current roster to clear a roster spot for Jennings. They have several expendable players on their roster, such as undrafted free agents Daniel Ochefu and Danuel House, but the most likely candidate seems to be the current backup point guard Trey Burke. Taking into account Burke’s struggles this season and the fact that he is currently on the last year of his deal, it seems likely he will be on his way out of Washington as soon as Jennings signs his contract.
Once Jennings joins the team, he will be tasked with running the Wizards second unit, a group that currently ranks second-to-last in both minutes per game and points per game in the NBA. These are two areas in which Jennings should be able to contribute immediately, as he figures to see substantial minutes right off the bat and his proven track record as a scorer bodes well for his ability to score points off the bench. The manner in which Jennings scores is generally based upon volume shooting but he has also displayed that he is crafty with the ball in his hands which allows him to score in a variety of ways and find open looks. He and trade deadline acquisition Bojan Bogdanovic should supply the bench with enough firepower to make the Wizards bench a legitimate threat when the starters need a rest.
The other area that Brandon Jennings will be asked to improve is the offensive execution of the second unit. One of the most significant factors contributing to the Wizards bench struggles is their inability to run Scott Brooks’s offense effectively. Specifically, the backup point guards have had trouble executing half court sets, creating open looks for teammates, and running the offense at the desired pace of play. Jennings, despite his reputation as a scoring guard, has shown noticeable improvement facilitating offensive sets and creating open looks for his teammates. With Jennings at the helm, the second unit should experience a quicker pace of play, improved half court sets, and better ball movement which should result in increased open looks and enhanced offensive efficiency.
All in all, signing Brandon Jennings was a shrewd move by Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld and Jennings presence should immediately provide a boost to the Wizards bench in a variety of ways.