Josh Smith's egress from Atlanta has reached "not if, but when" status, and now a compelling new suitor for his skills has emerged.
Per the Racine Journal-Times (via CBS Sports):
One team that hasn't been publicly mentioned in the Smith Sweepstakes is Milwaukee, although there are whispers the Bucks are interested. The Bucks are in position to offer the Hawks as good of a deal as anyone for Smith, especially if Jennings or Ellis is involved. Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova, whom the Nets seriously courted during free agency last summer and are still interested in, could also come into play.
Though any team would do well to add a dynamic player like Smith, the Bucks stand out as a particularly good fit. It's hard to find a unit that needs a boost more than Milwaukee, who still stands eighth in the East despite poor play in recent weeks.
But more than that, bringing in Smith—along with, potentially, getting rid of Jennings or Ellis—would immediately make the Bucks, for once, a properly rounded team.
More than almost any other sport on the planet, basketball is a game that doesn't reward redundant skill sets. So it was curious when the Bucks moved to bring in Monta Ellis at last season's trade deadline. The acquisition, some posited at the time, was redundant due to the presence of Jennings.
Eleven months into the operation, those early predictions appear to have been spot on. The Bucks have certainly improved from an overall talent perspective, but the pieces just don't seem to fit. Jennings plays too much like Ellis, and Ellis plays too much like Jennings. Why pay, play and build around two guys who are essentially doppelgangers?
In bringing in Smith, the Bucks would be acquiring a skill set that the team doesn't already have. He's a legitimate scoring threat from the wing—someone capable of creating his own shot off the bounce but also able to throw one down from the post.
Though he certainly wouldn't be redundant, he fits in nicely with what Milwaukee already does. That is, the Bucks have branded themselves, in part, as a team that puts on its hard hat and scraps you out of ball games. Smith is the perfect player for that kind of system.
And how about the way he'd aid the development of Milwaukee's other young tweeners? They appear to really have something in NBA blocks leader Larry Sanders, and rookie John Henson hasn't looked half-bad himself.
Bringing in the tutelage of a similarly shaped veteran—a guy who himself has tallied many blocks in his time—can only expedite their progression. Smith might not be a perfect off-court role model, but on the hardwood, it's hard to picture a better mentor.
The Bucks need to make this move for all the reasons listed above, but more than anything, they need to send a sign to their fans that they're serious.
Right now, they're in just about the worst position an NBA team could be in—too good to secure high draft picks, but not good enough to seriously compete.
That's the Association's version of purgatory.
Sending for Smith is a bold move, I'll grant you that, but only with moves this intrepid can a team escape that vacuum.
With the versatile forward in tow, Milwaukee wouldn't become an Eastern Conference contender for certain, but they'd have a shot. That's more than you can say about the present roster.
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