The Milwaukee Bucks are thinking big — if rumors are to be believed.
With Thursday's 3 p.m. trade deadline quickly approaching, Milwaukee's future is coming to a pretty quick head. Both Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis will be free agents this summer and it is largely expected that only one will remain with Milwaukee heading to the future. Considering that Jennings is a restricted free agent, most people peg Jennings as the one Milwaukee will keep.
So if Ellis and his strong offensive abilities are on the market what are the Bucks to do?
Sitting at 26-26 and in the eighth spot in the East, it is hard to think the Bucks will do much damage in the Playoffs. Certainly getting there for the first time since 2010 will be a good accomplishment for this team. Or Milwaukee could do what they are rumored to be doing: Going all in.
The Bucks are reportedly very active in the trade market, pursuing Orlando's J.J. Redick and Atlanta's Josh Smith especially hard as the trade deadline nears. Just about any player not named Brandon Jennings or Larry Sanders seems to be available with Ellis and forward Luc Richard Mbah A Moute rumored to go in these deals.
This would be a transformative plan for the Bucks and make them more than just an also-ran at the bottom of the East's Playoff Ladder. With Jennings, Smith and Redick, the Bucks have a strong offensive core of guys who can spread the floor and create their own shot.
Redick is having a career year for the Magic and is rumored to be available for a young player or a first round pick. The rumor that popped up Wednesday courtesty of Ken Berger of CBS Sports was that the Bucks and Magic were discussing a deal that would swap Redick for Mbah a Moute. However, it seemed dependent on the Bucks moving Ellis out of town.
Those talks have reportedly cooled as Sam Amick of USA TODAY reported the Magic are not interested in taking back Mbah a Moute's contract.
That puts a big wrench in this plan as Redick is the kind of player that just fits into an offense. He does not need the ball in his hands to be effective but is often able to get himself open for shots. Not to mention he is a deadeye marksman from beyond the arc.
The centerpiece of the whole trade deadline — the first domino likely to fall, so to speak — is Josh Smith.
Smith seems determined to get a max contract this summer as a free agent and Atlanta seems determined not to give him one. That means he is likely on the move so Atlanta can cash in and get some assets for him. Ellis would be a nice get for the talent he can provide a Playoff team now, fitting in around Jeff Teague and Al Horford, and the cap relief he could give the team next year if he decides to exercise his early termination option.
Still, both these rumored deals come with a lot of risk. Except for Jennings, Milwaukee really could not guarantee that Smith or Redick (if they somehow get back into those busy negotiations with Orlando) would resign next summer. Pretty much, both of these deals signify Milwaukee's hopes that Bird Rights would be enough to keep those players in Milwaukee and make a team that could push for a higher Playoff berth.
That may not happen. The Bucks are not exactly a destination team and success with free agents has been spotty throughout their history. A strong finish might be enough to convince one or the other. But a first round exit certainly would not.
Even if the Bucks make these moves, it is hard to envision them climbing that much higher in the standings in the final 30-or-so games. If Milwaukee is pushing all in now on this team, they better make sure it is worth that risk and they have their ducks in a row.