The Boston Celtics may have ultimately bowed out of the James Harden sweepstakes. Yet that’s not to say that general manager Danny Ainge doesn’t have a few things brewing ahead of the March 25 trade deadline.
With the Rockets seemingly in firesale mode after shipping Harden off to Brooklyn, the team looks primed to gut their roster of proven contributors over the coming months, namely the recently acquired Victor Oladipo and veteran P.J. Tucker. While ex-Celtic Brian Scalabrine believes the former could find his way to Boston, reports point to the two-time All-Star forcefully petitioning for a move to Miami. That leaves Tucker, who according to The Athletic’s Kelly Iko, has received interest from multiple suitors.
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Boston in on Tucker?
That appears to be the vibe within some NBA circles, as one executive pegged the Celtics and the aforementioned Heat as potential candidates to pursue a deal for Tucker.
“I think Houston can move PJ in a separate deal later,” the executive said, per HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto. “He will have value in the East, especially to combat Giannis and Durant. I can see Miami going after PJ and maybe even Boston.”
In that case, what is the asking price for a soon-to-be 36-year-old forward averaging his lowest scoring output (6.0 ppg) in four years and his lowest rebound output (4.6 per game) since 2012? According to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, not too steep.
“Two league sources tell me Tucker’s value around the league is about three second-round picks,” O’Connor wrote in a column on Thursday. “The Rockets may hold out for a team to offer a first ahead of the March 25 trade deadline, but Tucker is 35 and will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, which hurts his value.”
While Tucker may not be the be-all, end-all addition to put Boston over the top in the East, his savvy veteran presence, physical defensive traits and shooting ability beyond the arc make him a bargain role player for a cap hit of just $7.9 million.
The 14-year vet has the look of a perfect 3-and-D addition for a team with championship aspirations. At the very least it should be enough to have Ainge pick up the phone and shoot Houston yet another “courtesy call.”
Minnesota the Favorites to Land Tucker?
While Boston has the chance to insert themselves in the Tucker sweepstakes in the coming weeks, it looks as if the forward-needy Minnesota Timberwolves are the current favorites to swing a deal.
“The Timberwolves have been monitoring P.J. Tucker’s situation in Houston since before the draft, and there now is reason to believe that the Rockets’ rugged frontcourt fire hydrant is finally available,” The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski wrote on Thursday. “The Rockets finally relented to James Harden’s trade demand, and that should open the door for them to move the 35-year-old Tucker. The Wolves have maintained contact with the Rockets on Tucker and were expected to re-engage now that Harden is gone.”
With Juancho Hernangomez underwhelming thus far this season and the limited two-way contribution of Jake Layman, Tucker could serve as a sizeable upgrade for Minnesota at power forward.
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