The Milwaukee Bucks are interested in trading for Josh Smith, but landing the dynamic forward can happen only after the team makes another key decision first. That is because the team must also decide on the future of point guard Brandon Jennings, an impending restricted free agent, who has implied that he would prefer to play in a bigger market, per ESPN's Chris Broussard.
In his latest blog, Ken Berger of CBS Sports discussed the crossroads that Milwaukee has come to:
Another team linked to Smith is the Bucks, who are "definitely active," according to a rival exec. Milwaukee has to decide whether it will make prospective restricted free agent Brandon Jennings available with the point guard having previously expressed that he's doing his homework on bigger markets. Jennings recently changed agents, leaving Bill Duffy and signing with Jeff Schwartz, a noted proponent of added endorsement and exposure opportunities that bigger NBA cities provide.
Granted, landing Smith would definitely help the Bucks solve their issues at power forward. The man has solid size at 6'9", 225 pounds, and he is a great interior presence on both sides of the floor while also showcasing an ever-improving jump shot.
That's all well and good, but it does not take away from the fact that the Bucks have to make a choice. Retaining Jennings is important, but keeping Smith aboard for more than this season may be even tougher.
As ESPN's Marc Stein reported on Feb. 19, the one potential holdup is the difficulty that GM John Hammond would have in convincing Smith to stay aboard long-term, which is also the issue that he is currently having with Jennings.
Now put yourself in Jennings' position. Restricted free agency means that he can negotiate with any and all teams, and can then agree to sign an offer sheet with any one of them. However, per the Gilbert Arenas Rule, the Bucks can match any offer and retain Jennings, if they so choose.
Even if that is the case, one must consider the backlash that a trade for Smith could have on the team's relationship with Jennings. Already a somewhat volatile individual, Jennings could easily see the team trading for Smith as a sign that he is no longer wanted, and he could then use his time on the market to try and agree to a deal that the Bucks would be hesitant to match.
Take that into consideration on top of the fact that Smith himself may look for a new team this summer (assuming the Bucks do trade for him), and Milwaukee runs the risk of losing not one, but two, of their top players for nothing. This is also not to mention the uncertain future of the team's other starting guard and impending free agent, Monta Ellis.
What should be the Bucks' top priority?
That all being said, the Bucks need to make a decision. They could either trade for Smith and risk losing a bunch of key players as a result, or they could keep the roster as is and take their chances with Jennings in free agency.
Some fans may be hesitant to pursue the latter idea, but the fact that young power forward John Henson is waiting in the wings and has shown potential when given the opportunity does not make landing Smith an absolute necessity.
All that Hammond has to do is decide which player he has a better chance of bringing back. He needs to think long and hard, lest he wants to have the Milwaukee Bucks take two steps back instead of one step forward.