Much like his former teammate James Harden, it appears that P.J. Tucker will not finish the season with the Houston Rockets. On Thursday night, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported PJ Tucker “remains frustrated that he hasn’t been moved to a contender”. He sat out the Rockets’ game against the Sacramento Kings, and it’s “unclear when Tucker will return to the lineup”.
Rockets coach Stephen Silas directly addressed the rumors after the team’s loss to the Kings, stating that “We’re going to try to figure out something that works for him and works for us as far as him not being on the team anymore.” Given that the Rockets have discussed Tucker trades in recent weeks with other teams, ESPN reported that talks are expected to result in a deal for Tucker prior to the March 25th trade deadline.
With the NBA Trade Deadline inside of two weeks now — and Houston losers of 14 straight games — PJ Tucker has likely played his final game with the Rockets. https://t.co/k9vp3z4WX6
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 12, 2021
Tucker is in the midst of a career-worst season, averaging 4.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists on 36.6 percent from the field and 31.4 percent from the three-point line. Despite his underwhelming numbers, Tucker still holds value, particularly for contending teams. He’s a viable 3-and-D player with the ability to play as a small-ball center. He’s also a stout defender and one of the best corner-three shooters in the NBA. Here are three teams, in particular, that would benefit from trading for PJ Tucker.
Three Teams for PJ Tucker
1. Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers’ reported interest in nearly every player available has become something of a running joke. However, there’s reason to believe that the Lakers’ reported interest in Tucker may be legitimate.
For one, the Lakers would likely play Tucker at the four given AD’s dominance at the five during the playoffs. As a small-ball four, Tucker would probably replace Markieff Morris in the starting lineup. This would be an immediate upgrade, as Tucker is both a better shooter and a more versatile defender than Morris. Given the Lakers’ recent shooting struggles, Tucker’s shooting ability would alleviate these concerns and simultaneously improve their poor spacing.
Additionally, the Lakers’ center depth is not as strong as it seems. According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the Lakers are in the market for another big in large part because the Marc Gasol signing has not gone as well as expected. Furthermore, Montrezl Harrell‘s well-documented struggles in the playoffs last year demonstrated he was a defensive liability late in playoff games. In this way, Tucker would provide insurance in case Gasol and Harrell are not particularly useable in a playoff setting.
2. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat have rebounded after a horrific start, but their gaping hole at the power forward position remains. They have not been the same without Jae Crowder, who provided two-way prowess that improves the flow of both their offense and defense. Maurice Harkless is theoretically supposed to fill this 3-and-D role, but he has lost his spot in the Heat’s rotation entirely. Enter PJ Tucker.
Tucker provides three-point shooting and a tough defensive mentality, and he’d instantly bolster the Heat’s lackluster defense. However, trade negotiations may be challenged by the Rockets’ insistence on aggregating young talent. Per Bleacher Report, the Rockets want either Tyler Herro or Duncan Robinson for Tucker. Precious Achiuwa was also mentioned as a potential trade piece. However, the Heat have exhibited hesitancy in moving their young pieces, so such a trade appears unlikely. Moving someone like Avery Bradley or Meyers Leonard along with a few seconds seems like a more probable trade offer.
3. Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets have made a flurry of moves over the last couple of weeks, as they’ve strengthened their offense significantly. In a video diving into Blake Griffin‘s signing by the Nets, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor said that the Nets “want Tucker” to “bolster the defense.” There’s no question Tucker would slot in fairly well with the Nets on both ends of the court.
Adding Tucker would provide a stronger defense without sacrificing any offensive production. The Nets have a lack of quality perimeter defenders, and Tucker could take on tough defensive assignments to reduce the load on Kevin Durant. Additionally, Tucker has demonstrated that he can guard centers for stretches of playoff games. Look no further than his impressive defensive performance against Anthony Davis in the bubble last year. No player defending Davis for more than 30 possessions forced a higher turnover rate or fewer field-goal attempts than Tucker in Game 2 of the Rockets-Lakers series.
Furthermore, the Nets could unlock another level of their offense by playing Tucker at the small-ball five. A lineup of Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Joe Harris, and Tucker could go ballistic on offense while still holding their own on defense. This is a tantalizing proposition for a Nets team with a short championship window. One more reason is Tucker’s numerable connections to the Nets. He recently played with Jeff Green and Harden, and his former coach Mike D’Antoni serves as an assistant coach to the Nets’ Steve Nash.
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