The Bulls' biggest division threat next season will be the Indiana Pacers, but another Central foe made an already busy offseason even more notable.
According to reports (first by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski), the Milwaukee Bucks will send point guard Brandon Jennings to the Detroit Pistons in a sign-and-trade deal, with the Pistons sending back point guard Brandon Knight along with Khris Middleton and Slava Kravtsov. Reports earlier in the week said that Jennings, a restricted free agent who had worn out his welcome in Milwaukee, was considering playing under a one-year qualifying offer from the Bucks before becoming an unrestricted free agent next season. Now, he'll make $24 million over the next three seasons to head a Pistons team that is shaping up nicely after a busy offseason.
Three weeks ago they made a giant splash by signing forward Josh Smith to a four-year, $54 million deal to shore up a frontline that lacked a small forward presence after Tayshaun Prince was traded to the Grizzlies in January as part of the Rudy Gay-to-Toronto deal. Smith will inject life into a Pistons' defense that ranked in the bottom half of most major defensive categories.
Beginning with Greg Monroe in 2010 (No. 7 overall), the Pistons have begun shaping the rest of their core through the draft, selecting Knight a year later with the No. 8 pick and center Andre Drummond No. 9 overall in 2012. Last month the Pistons selected shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with the No. 8 pick. Caldwell-Pope was 13th in scoring in the Orlando Summer League and could be slotted as the team's starting shooting guard if he has a solid camp.
Chances are LeBron James and co. aren't worried about the Pistons' latest moves, but adding Jennings to an already talented starting group should make them contenders for a playoff spot. After winning 29 games a year ago, there's a chance Detroit could replace Milwaukee -- last year's No. 8 seed in the East -- in the playoffs. For Jennings it's a push-the-reset-button career move. After butting heads with Scott Skiles for years -- until Skiles' eventual firing last year -- it was apparent the Jennings-Milwaukee connection wasn't working. He'll never be a model of efficiency, but perhaps Jennings will turn over a new leaf and become more of a distrubutor than a chucker with so much talent around him.
For the Bucks it's an unofficial white flag on the 2013 season. Seeing Monta Ellis and JJ Redick depart during free agency freed up some cap space -- which they used to sign OJ Mayo to a three-year, $24 million deal and Gary Neal to a two-year, $6.5 million deal -- were more or less expected, but departing with the 23-year-old Jennings for the 21-year-old Knight shows the team is looking to rebuild. As many as 11 new faces will be on the roster in 2013, and for now it seems the franchise has its sights set on the 2014 NBA draft and free agency.
Though it involves two Central teams, this move shouldn't have much of an effect on the Bulls. Still, the Bucks and Pistons will look different next season than they did when the Bulls went 5-3 against the two teams a year go.