As Nets general manager Sean Marks surveys his options ahead of what promises to be a busy and all-important offseason for him, one facet of the game has to be prioritized more than others: defense.
Brooklyn, after all, finished second in the NBA in points per game this past season, its 117.7 nightly average just a tick behind the Milwaukee Bucks’ 117.8 average output. Led by arguably the best offensive-minded trio every assembled on a single NBA team, the Nets don’t need to worry much about scoring with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving on their roster.
Defense, though, is another thing entirely.
The Nets finished 21st in the NBA with 112.9 points allowed per game. That’s not awful, but any improvement stands to raise Brooklyn’s championship hopes by a considerable margin.
That’s why it’s no surprise to see one defensive-minded player resurface as a potential Nets trade target this offseason.
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Nets Still Reportedly Interested in P.J. Tucker
In March, the Bucks traded for P.J. Tucker in a deal with the Houston Rockets. It’s clear the trade paid off exactly how Milwaukee was hoping it would.
Tucker has shined as a 3-and-D player this postseason, putting forth arguably his best performance against Durant during the Nets’ second-round series against the Bucks.
With Tucker as a small but impactful part of Milwaukee’s rotation, the Bucks are two wins away from an NBA title.
Meanwhile, the Nets are reportedly already envisioning what Tucker could be doing for them around this time next year. According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, Brooklyn has maintained an interest in Tucker dating back to the its Harden trade talks.
Fischer elaborates more on Tucker’s current situation in his piece for BP:
The Bucks could very well re-sign Tucker. They hold his Bird rights, so they’re allowed to go over the cap to re-sign him. But awarding Tucker the $12 million average annual salary he sought back during negotiations with Houston, sources said, will push Milwaukee’s expensive roster way over that pesky tax apron.
Perhaps the Bucks could now benefit from more tricky tinkering with Tucker’s free agency.
His role in this Bucks Finals run, including checking Kevin Durant and Trae Young, should certainly help Tucker’s quest for a richer deal. A cap-conscious front office such as Milwaukee’s would likely attempt to net some future draft capital or an established player in return.
Fischer added that the Lakers, Warriors, Nuggets, Jazz and Timberwolves could also compete for Tucker’s services this offseason.
Though Tucker is only 6-foot-5, he’s capable of guarding anyone in the league. And though he’s 36, he’s still a stellar defender and solid rebounder who does the little things well.
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Tucker and Durant Have Interesting History
Durant and Tucker are a pair of former Texas Longhorns. Most recently, in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series in June, the two got tangled in a heated exchange during which they got in each other’s faces before a swarm of players, coaches and security worked to deescalate the situation.
Still, it’s clear there’s a lot of respect between them. Tucker said as much in 2019.
“I got the utmost respect for Kevin,” Tucker said two years ago, via The Undefeated. “I take pride in it. This is something I want to do. I can’t wait to guard Kevin Durant. Nobody wants to guard Kevin Durant. … Everybody dreams about scoring 30, getting the game-winner. No, no, no, not me. I love my role. I love what I do. … It sounds crazy, but this is my dream. I’m living my dream right now guarding Kevin Durant in the NBA playoffs.”