After reports last week suggested the Milwaukee Bucks were one of the many teams "interested in" acquiring Josh Smith, many fans brushed it off as a transient rumor. Well, it's not going away. In fact, it's getting more complicated:
On Bucks/Josh Smith talk: Hawks' interest believed to start w/Monta Ellis, since Monta could play next to Jeff Teague, whom Hawks still like— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 19, 2013
It's highly unlikely the Hawks would be interested in a straight Josh Smith for Monta Ellis deal (though such a deal is legal, salary-wise), but Milwaukee has a number of other assets it could package with Ellis in return for Smith, be it a pick or another young player.
The swap does make a lot of sense for Milwaukee in isolation: the team's strength is defense, and a Smith-Sanders frontcourt would be absolutely tenacious on that end of the floor. With Monta Ellis having perhaps the worst offensive season of his career, the Bucks might not need much prodding to part ways with him, especially since it would remove one more question mark from their future salary levels. And while Smith seems highly unlikely to re-sign with the Bucks, both because of his asking price and his obvious distaste for Milwaukee, the Bucks might have no problem with a half-season rental if it doesn't cost them too much.
Of course, if Ellis is to be traded, Milwaukee will almost certainly have to get back a starting-caliber guard in return, though it would necessarily have to come in the same deal. Some have suggested an expanded 3-team deal involving the Brooklyn Nets is possible (the Nets would most likely acquire Ersan Ilyasova from the Bucks), meaning a player like Devin Harris (a Milwaukee native) or even MarShon Brooks could replace Ellis. Milwaukee could also take a longer look at Orlando's J.J. Redick--clearing Monta's potential cap hit off the books would give the Bucks more room to re-sign him. Conversely, however, it's unclear how many assets Milwaukee would retain (and be willing to move) if Smith were acquired.
For their part, SB Nation's Hawks Blog Peachtree Hoops isn't sold:
How about the Milwaukee Bucks? Would Monta Ellis could terminate his deal and give the Hawks cap space, and would Milwaukee include what else with Ellis, who is a more of the same they had with Joe Johnson and duplicates Lou Williams? Any why would MIL be willing to include Larry Sanders or any young talent or picks when Ellis is likely to terminate in a weak FA class?
Including Larry Sanders in the deal seems like a non-starter for Milwaukee, but what about an underutilized player like Ekpe Udoh? Would that be enough sweetener to convince the Hawks? It's tough to say.
It's a strange situation, considering the...contentious relationship between the Bucks and Smith, but if John Hammond is convinced Smith will improve the team in the short- or long-term, he might have no problem overlooking past transgressions.
Just another day in deadline week for the Milwaukee Bucks.