July 31, 2013 at 1:49 am

Vincent Goodwill

For Pistons, Brandon Jennings deal is roll of dice worth taking

Though denying any talks with the Bucks, Pistons president Joe Dumars appears to have swung a deal for guard Brandon Jennings. (Clarence Tabb, Jr./Detroit News)

The Pistons weren’t done wheeling and dealing, as Pistons president and Louisiana native Joe Dumars returned to his riverboat gambler ways, acquiring point guard Brandon Jennings in a sign-and-trade from the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Pistons traded Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton and Slava Kravtsov for Jennings and will have him for the next three years at $24 million total.

Mind you, this was not too far removed from Dumars demonstratively denying any talks with the Bucks, run by good friend and former Pistons executive John Hammond.

Meaning he plays poker, too. In acquiring Jennings and Josh Smith, there’s two talented but mercurial players who could be termed as “wild cards.”

Chemistry is indeed a fair question, but considering the Pistons got two players for far less than they felt they’d command on the open market — Smith wanted a max contract and Jennings wanted $12 million per season — they should have two players with things to prove to the NBA at large.

A willingness to silence critics should make potential sacrifices a lot easier in what’s an interesting mix of talent, youth and experience in the Pistons’ locker room.

The last time the Pistons changed three starters so dramatically in one offseason was in 2002 when they signed Chauncey Billups as a free agent, traded mainstay Jerry Stackhouse for some unknown guard named Richard Hamilton and plucked Tayshaun Prince late in the first round for what was a bad 2002 draft.

Expect the unexpected

Predictability has gone out the window in Auburn Hills, as the opening night starting lineup will look drastically different than the ones that took the floor last season.

The Motown Makeover is a risk, but the opportunity to drastically upgrade the talent in an Eastern Conference that has playoff spots for the taking, was too much to pass up.

Either way, this ratchets up the expectations for the Pistons this coming season, as the playoffs are not just a wishful thought but should be an expectation.

Jennings comes to Detroit full of bravado, and perhaps having been a free agent for a month without a real offer to his liking, will arrive humbled but motivated.

Will this work? Time will tell. Can this work? It can ... provided Jennings alters his game to fit into the makeup of this team.

One of the reasons Jennings sat on the outside looking in of this summer’s early activity was because he’s viewed as a talented but selfish player.

The rap is that he looks for his own shot first and second and then passes third, evidenced by his poor shooting numbers and questionable shot selection, despite an ability to create shots for other players.

He’s never shot over 41.8 percent from the field, shooting less than 40 percent in three of his four years in the NBA.

Jennings knows the reputation, and so the Pistons, who have to be entering into this three-year partnership eyes wide open.

By moving Brandon Knight, which couldn’t have been easy given Knight’s consistent effort and pseudo-sacrifice to the team by playing shooting guard for the second half of the season, it was an indication of one subtle difference in the NBA compared to years’ past.

The patience for point guards compared to bigs in this league is wire-thin. Because the position is so top-heavy, point men had better come into the league hitting the ground running, otherwise the clock is ticking.

Not a shock

Knight cannot be surprised by the move, because he’s heard his name thrown around in the rumor mill from the end of the season and he’s well aware of the harsh reality of the NBA business.

He’s probably focusing on the Bucks wanting him as opposed to the Pistons getting rid of him after just two years, but is slightly taken aback because of the player he was traded for.

As for comparing the two, which will happen for the rest of their careers thanks to this transaction, Knight was still learning to see the floor — a must for today’s point guards — but had the willingness to distribute.

For Jennings, there’s little doubt about his court vision but plenty about his willingness to share.

He has to distribute more, especially with Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe in the frontcourt. It can’t just be an afterthought or last-ditch option; the Pistons like his aggressiveness, they just want it to be harnessed.

It’s much in the same way Chauncey Billups had to transform his game when he arrived in Detroit over a decade ago, when he was a scorer first but had the ability to become a playmaker.

Jennings, if he’s smart, will seek the counsel of a player who’s been in the same shoes as he to help manage the adjustments and expectations.

One good thing, perhaps great thing about Jennings is he can carry a team through long stretches, although he’s certainly just as apt to shoot his team out of a game as well with his streaky shooting.

Either way, the Pistons will likely acknowledge it’s a risk but one worth taking.

Jennings is likely in the second tier of point guards, but doesn’t fear any of them and has enough experience to navigate what should be a very disparate locker room for a franchise desperate to become legit again.

vgoodwill@detroitnews.com
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