According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks have engaged in preliminary talks on a potential trade involving Josh Smith and Monta Ellis. Both men are expected to become free agents after this season concludes.
No matter how it may look on the surface, this is a deal worth considering for the Hawks.
To be clear, this trade would not only see Smith and Ellis change teams. Instead, it would be a deal which lands Atlanta far more than Ellis.
Just don't think the Hawks aren't considering the potential backcourt tandem of Ellis and Jeff Teague.
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
As nice as 18.4 points and 5.5 assists may sound, a 40.1 percent shooter is unlikely to be considered complete compensation for a player of Smith's caliber.
What this trade could potentially lead to is the addition of youth and affordable depth. For a team that has less than $22.0 million locked up entering free agency, that's an attractive addition.
One that could have Atlanta on the brink of becoming the Eastern Conference's Denver Nuggets.
With all of this being noted, there is no guarantee that a trade will transpire. At this point it is merely speculation.
So why would Atlanta want to execute this trade?
Potential to Include Larry Sanders
If the Atlanta Hawks were to execute a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, there would be the potential to land Larry Sanders. Although he not yet a household name, Sanders is the most prolific shot blocker in the NBA.
Thus far in 2012-13, Sanders leads the league in blocks per game, 3.16, and blocks per 48 minutes, 5.96.
By acquiring Sanders, the Hawks would begin the post-Smith era with a potentially elite frontcourt. With Al Horford playing at an All-Star caliber level, Atlanta would be a dominant two-way interior force.
Perhaps most important of all, the Hawks could finally move Horford to his natural position of power forward.
Sanders will become a restricted free agent after this season, but that shouldn't bother general manager Danny Ferry. At 24, Sanders has his best days in front of him.
With an abundance of cap space, Ferry would now have a core to build around in Horford and Sanders.
Something to Pitch
When the 2013 NBA period of free agency rolls around, the Atlanta Hawks will have just $21,510,122 guaranteed. That leaves an abundance of cap space to work the open market for stars and depth.
The question is, what, besides cap space, does Atlanta have to pitch?
Al Horford is an All-Star caliber performer, but he alone will not bring the stars running. Instead, the Hawks will need to create the basic semblance of a core to attract free agents.
With Horford and Larry Sanders, the Hawks suddenly have something to pitch.
Whether or not they keep Monta Ellis is a non-factor at this point. This deal is centered around Sanders and will be decided by whether or not the Hawks can acquire the shot blocking big man.
If they can, they could potentially piece together the Eastern Conference's Denver Nuggets.
The Hawks have the cap space to acquire a significant amount of depth. They also have two first round selections in the 2013 NBA draft.
When it's all said and done, this trade could open the floodgates for Atlanta to create a potential power—and it's all about the additional pieces.