Bucks general manager Larry Harris said his first phone call was to the Nuggets after instructing his staff last week to scour other teams' rosters for a backup small forward.
"It really was a matter of reading some articles and going through the salaries starting with Atlanta and working all the way to Washington to see what deals worked and what deals made sense," he said. "We really needed to find a small forward that fit the bill for us."
Patterson played in 26 games with the Nuggets after being acquired in a deadline deal with Portland on Feb. 23. He averaged 12.1 points and 3.4 rebounds last season.
Smith is joining his sixth team, and the No. 1 pick in the 1995 NBA draft averaged 8.6 points and 5.2 rebounds in 44 games for the Bucks last season. His best season was 1996-97, when he averaged 18.7 points and 8.5 rebounds for Golden State.
Although Harris said there was no demand by Smith to be traded, Smith wanted a better situation after the Bucks dealt starting point guard T.J. Ford to Toronto for power forward Charlie Villaneuva the day after the draft.
"Anybody who is in the last year of their contract wants to know their future," Harris said. "When we got Charlie, he could see he would be a backup."
It's the third major move the Bucks have made this summer, having also jettisoned starting center Jamaal Magloire to the Trail Blazers. Milwaukee has four new players on its roster who played for Portland, the league's worst team last season.
Both Smith and Patterson are 31 and in the last year of their contracts, but Patterson, joining his fifth team, has had many well-documented problems off the court.
In 2001, he entered a modified guilty plea in Washington state to third-degree attempted rape for allegedly forcing his children's 24-year-old nanny to perform a sex act on him. A judge suspended all but 15 days of a one-year sentence, and Patterson served the time in his Cleveland home. He also was suspended for the first five games of the following season by the NBA.
Patterson was convicted of misdemeanor assault outside a Cleveland night club in 2001 and arrested in 2002 on felony charges of domestic abuse that were later dropped.
Patterson has said his struggles with alcoholism were the culprit for his past problems and reiterated to the Bucks staff that he's moved on. Harris agreed.
"We feel Ruben understands coming to Milwaukee that talent is important, character is important," Harris said. "The past is one thing I think he's grown from, learned from those experiences and matured."
Harris said Patterson shouldn't need any motivation knowing he'll be working for a new contract in 2007.
"The slate is clean here, he knows that," Harris said. "He's going to play every night and he's going to do everything he can. Hopefully by our success, he will get compensated."