The Milwaukee Bucks are a team seemingly always on the verge. They seemed to always get to the level of contention during the Andrew Bogut years but never quite got there.
This year, they are taking advantage of a very weak Central division to jump out to a solid start.
But that doesn't mean this team is any closer to breaking through.
Sure, they have some talent, but they have a lot of questions to answer before next season. Can they bring back Brandon Jennings? Will Monta Ellis choose to exercise this $11 million player option for next year? Can their talented big men Ekpe Udoh and Larry Sanders play together? Could Ersan Ilyasova fetch more than he is worth?
Here are five potential trades that Milwaukee should be thinking about.
Monta Ellis is a talented shooting guard that can score whenever he wants to, but doesn't provide a whole lot else to a team. He isn't an overly strong distributor and his lack of size makes him a weak defender. The ideal team for him would be built a lot like the Philadelphia 76ers were built around Allen Iverson.
That being said, he is one of the strongest free agents this summer if he chooses to leave his player option on the table. There are only a handful of players that have Ellis' talent and youth available on the open market, so testing his worth might be a foregone conclusion.
Therefore, Milwaukee needs to see what they can get for Ellis.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are a likely trade partner for Milwaukee. They have a surplus of guard talent, especially with the return of Ricky Rubio. They also are potentially looking to deal talented second year forward Derrick Williams.
This trade is not ideal, but would help both teams. For Milwaukee, J.J. Barea would be a nice backup point guard for Brandon Jennings. He is fiery, quick and has decent range. But more than anything, he is a distributor, something that Milwaukee could use.
Sure, Beno Udrih is a similar player, but he has had injury issues this year and is a free agent after this season.
Williams is real key to this deal. Last year's number two overall pick has a lot of offensive talent, which the Bucks crave in their front court. Mike Dunleavy is solid, but he also is a free agent after this year.
This trade could be a gamble for Milwaukee, but if Williams develops into the player he was while at Arizona, it could be a steal.
Ellis would drastically improve Minnesota. He would give them the dynamic shooting guard that they have craved to play opposite Rubio, and with its strong rebounding front court, the Timberwolves could live with Ellis' questionable shot selection.
Milwaukee could always have Minnesota throw in a draft pick as well.
For Milwaukee, the name of the game is accumulating young talent. If the Bucks indeed choose to deal Ellis, they need to get a return of strong talent, preferably in the front court.
Derrick Favors is the ideal type of player for Milwaukee. He is young, athletic and has shown glimpses of being on the cusp of breaking out. In less than 22 minutes per game, he is averaging nine points and nearly seven boards per game.
But Favors is never going to get the time he requires playing behind Paul Millsap. In Milwaukee he would be given the starting job and with Larry Sanders, could become a fearsome young front court.
Gordon Hayward would somewhat soften the blow of losing such offensive punch in the starting lineup. He can shoot the lights out and could pair well with Jennings on offense. But even if he doesn't pan out, Favors should be worth it alone.
Raja Bell is a throw-in as he probably wouldn't play a minute for Milwaukee and has an expiring deal.
For Utah, this could be a tricky move. Sure, Ellis provides excellent offense and would bolster their starting lineup. But he could choose to become a free agent and would thus render this move a failure.
The Jazz also risk losing both Millsap and Favors, which could destroy their currently loaded front court.
They would probably require a first round pick be included, one that Milwaukee could protect.
That being said, Ellis would fit Utah's system beautifully. He would allow them a shot at contention this year and would provide needed excitement for a fanbase that is starved for some.
Sure, the Bucks do have some young front court talent. Udoh and Sanders each bring excellent defense and athleticism to the table.
But could Milwaukee afford to pass up the chance to get one of the better young centers in the game?
For the Bucks, Marcin Gortat immediately fills their hole at center. He can score a lot better than Sanders, and is a rebounding improvement over Samuel Dalembert.
He also is under contract for another year after this one, so the Bucks could attempt to sign him to an extension over the next year.
Shannon Brown similarly would help on offense and also is under contract for another year. He is an explosive scorer that would bring more size and athleticism to the back court.
For the Phoenix Suns, they need something to put butts in the seats.
A fanbase that had grown accustomed to exciting offense is suddenly weary of their team. They are averaging less than 15,000 fans per home game these days, which is only about 80 percent capacity for them. Compare this to the last decade when they routinely were in the top half of the league, and you can see why ownership would like to make a deal.
If the Bucks can convince Ellis to stick around after the season, this trade would really work for them. They would get an explosive and exciting scorer and it would give them an opportunity to play Markieff Morris some more meaningful minutes.
For the Bucks, trading Jennings needs to be a last resort as he is without question their most talented player.
Oddly enough, the Sacramento Kings find themselves in a similar predicament with Tyreke Evans. He is supremely talented but they have no clue what to do with him. Is he a point guard, a shooting guard or maybe even a small forward?
Jennings would fit the Kings fairly well. He is the distributor that Evans isn't and since he is a California native, he might be more open to re-signing with the Kings as opposed to Milwaukee.
Evans is far less likely to re-sign with Milwaukee. Therefore, the Kings need to sweeten the pot by throwing in Thomas Robinson and Jimmer Fredette.
This would be a bitter pill to swallow for Sacramento, dealing its last two top draft picks. But both have struggled in the mess which is Sacramento.
In Milwaukee, both would have the opportunity to start over in a friendlier environment. Jimmer could flourish in a system like Scott Skiles' and the Bucks' fiery coach might be able to scratch the surface of this immense talent.
Robinson is slightly undersized as a power forward, so it would do him well to have defensive-minded big men around him.
Not an ideal trade for either side, but it might just be crazy enough to work.
Again, this is under the worst case scenario involving Jennings, which is that the Bucks are unable to convince him to stick around.
For Milwaukee, this is about collecting young talent. Terrence Jones and Patrick Patterson would be added with Jeremy Lin to give the Bucks a nice collection of young big men.
Lin has not worked out so far in Houston, but could do well with a change of scenery.
The Bucks could also ask for a first round pick to be included.
For the Rockets, they are in win-now mode after making a big splash in landing James Harden. Jennings would provide them with a nice complimentary player to Harden and would distribute better than Lin.
Drew Gooden would be added for depth and salary purposes.