Mar 27, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Monta Ellis (11) passes the ball over Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith (5) during the third quarter at the Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Trade Rumors 2013 / Milwaukee Bucks Links: The Edition of the Scuttlebutting  Marc Stein says that the Hawks will likely deal forward and free-agent-to-be Josh Smith before Thursday’s trade deadline because they are not confident in their ability to re-sign him.  However, while the Bucks are a contender to land Smith, Stein ranks the Nets’ chances ahead of those of Milwaukee and Phoenix because of their willingness to follow up a trade with a long-term contract offer.

ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported Feb. 11 that (Josh) Smith is a prime Brooklyn Nets trade target. 

Another team pinpointed the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks as the strongest contenders to win the Smith sweepstakes. The big worry for both of those teams, though, is whether they could really risk trading for Smith when convincing him to re-sign for the long term is likely to be a serious challenge in either city. Especially with Smith said to be angling for a max deal … and with nobody confusing the Suns or the Bucks with Mikhail Prokohorov’s Nets.  Rob Mahoney of SI’s Point Forward blog examines the difficulty of finding a proper suitor for Monta Ellis.  Ellis’ unique skillset, combined with his deficiencies, make it tough to find a team with which he could mesh.

He can create as a lead guard, but shouldn’t be trusted without caveats. He should work off the ball more often, but can’t space the floor as a spot-up shooter. He can score, but rarely does so efficiently. He’s not even a particularly good isolation option when we really boil down his game, making him something of a dingier Lou Williams or a range-less Jason Terry. That’s a hard piece to drop into a lineup without the utmost consideration, and it’s those converging elements of Ellis’ game that make him more trouble to accommodate than he’s really worth.

I would add two things to Mahoney’s assessment of Ellis.  First, the piece mentions how Ellis occasionally, but not frequently enough, makes passes out of the paint.  What is understated here is that Ellis is a terrific passer into the paint.

Ellis averages 2.6 assists per game that result in makes at the rim.  Among non-point guards, that mark puts him third in the NBA behind only LeBron James and Andre Iguodala.  Monta routinely finds Larry Sanders for dunks as he drives — invariably to his right — around picks set for him.

And that’s the second issue.  Mahoney notes that Ellis has a unique knack for getting to the rim — one that he ignores too often — but that skill is tempered with the fact that defenses know he is going to his right hand.  He does have a nice spin move as a counter, but that isn’t enough to replace an adequate left hand.

Combine this assessment with what we wrote yesterday about Brandon Jennings, and it is not difficult to see why the Bucks have struggled to a plus-.500 record in spite of the Jennings/Ellis backcourt and not because of it.

Twitter:  Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports tends to scoop just about everyone on trade rumors, including those that eventually come to fruition.  Yesterday, he tweeted a pair of nuggets on the Bucks.

Boston Globe: Gary Washburn comments on both halves of the Bucks backcourt.

It’s almost a given that Brandon Jennings will explore free agency after the Bucks passed on an opportunity to sign him to an extension last summer. Jennings has exceeded expectations during his four years in the NBA but can still be wildly inconsistent with his 3-point shooting and decision-making. Also, guard Monta Ellis has an $11 million player option that he is expected to reject to become a free agent this summer. Ellis, like Josh Smith, has been productive throughout his career but elicits different opinions about whether he can contribute to a championship-caliber team. 

The information doesn’t appear to be much more than conventional wisdom based on their performances, prior statements, and contract situations, but it’s out there and it’s about the Bucks, so let’s just acknowledge it and move on.

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Tags: Josh Smith Milwaukee Bucks Monta Ellis NBA Trade Rumors

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