Brandon Jennings now 'near untouchable'

The Milwaukee Bucks continue to discuss Josh Smith trade scenarios with the Atlanta Hawks in advance of Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.

But those discussions, sources say, also serve as a strong indication of the rising likelihood that Brandon Jennings will not be moved this week.

ESPN.com reported Tuesday that Monta Ellis is the primary player Atlanta is targeting in its discussion with Milwaukee. Sources say that the Hawks, furthermore, want Milwaukee to add at least one expiring contract to the equation with Ellis and possibly take on some salary.

ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard, meanwhile, reported Wednesday morning on “SportsCenter” that Smith would be interested in playing with both Jennings and Ellis if he wound up in Milwaukee, leading the Bucks to try Wednesday to make the deal without surrendering Ellis.

Yet amid all of those talks, sources say, Jennings has moved alongside Larry Sanders and John Henson on the Bucks’ list of near-untouchables. This is despite Jennings’ widely presumed desire to leave Milwaukee in free agency this summer after failing to seal a contract extension in October like fellow point guards Jrue Holiday, Steph Curry and Ty Lawson and then changing agents earlier this month.

The Dallas Mavericks were at the forefront of the list of teams hoping that the Bucks would make Jennings available this week, but Milwaukee appears intent on taking its chances in the offseason, knowing that Jennings will be a restricted free agent and thus unable to leave town unless the Bucks decline to match an offer sheet he receives.

The Mavericks, sources say, have been pessimistic from the start about their ability to trade for Jennings before the deadline anyway. They know he’s the closest thing to a face of the franchise for the Bucks in the wake of Andrew Bogut’s departure at the 2012 trade deadline, meaning Milwaukee would likely set a high bar for teams inquiring about the fourth-year point guard.

The latest word on veteran center Samuel Dalembert, meanwhile, is that the Bucks are actually more inclined to keep him than move him now in the wake of Dalembert's fine fill-in work since Sanders was sidelined by a back injury. For much of the season -- largely when he was barely playing under Scott Skiles -- Dalembert was regarded as one of the players most likely to be traded this season.