The rat race to land Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith has yet another suitor, and this one may come as a shock. According to the The Journal Times' Gery Woelfel, the Milwaukee Bucks have emerged as a possible landing spot for the disgruntled forward:
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.
Though there have not yet been reports of negotiations between the two sides, Milwaukee does have some attractive pieces that could interest Hawks' general manager Danny Ferry.
Guard Monta Ellis is technically under contract for next season, but most expect him to opt out of his $11 million player option to land a long-term deal. Acquiring Ellis would keep the Hawks financially flexible enough to chase Dwight Howard, Chris Paul or any other player on the free-agent market this summer.
Nonetheless, the Bucks would need to offer something more than financial flexibility in the deal. Smith's contract is expiring at the end of the season, so a superficial swapping of expiring contracts would do little to interest Atlanta.
The key to the deal may be Milwaukee's willingness to part with third-year center Larry Sanders. ESPN's Marc Stein reported last week that the Hawks were looking for a young center in return for Smith, and Sanders fits that mold perfectly.
Better player in three years: Josh Smith or Larry Sanders?
An absolute menace on the defensive end, Sanders is averaging 8.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and an NBA-best 3.2 blocks per game. He's doing that despite playing just 25.2 minutes a night, and the Bucks defense is nearly 10 points better per 100 possessions with Sanders on the floor, per NBA.com.
Milwaukee would undoubtedly be hesitant to move Sanders in a potential deal, so it would have to get strong inclinations from Smith that he would stay to pull the trigger. Considering Milwaukee has never exactly been a hotbed for free agents and Smith's noted hesitancy to commit to Atlanta, the Bucks would be undertaking an awfully big risk.
However, with someone of Smith's caliber on the market, it would be hard to fault the Bucks for giving it a shot. It remains to be seen whether or not they will become a serious suitor, but the infrastructure is in place for both sides if they want to make a deal.