The Los Angeles Lakers continue to be linked to Houston Rockets big man P.J. Tucker but face competition around the NBA from other contenders. The good news for the Lakers is the Rockets appear to be dropping their asking price, per Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer.
“For weeks, the Rockets were messaging that they would accept either a first-rounder or three second-round picks, sources told B/R,” Fischer detailed. “But Tucker’s output has dropped significantly this season. He’s shooting only 31.4 percent from three, his worst mark since 2012-13, and he’s averaging only 4.6 rebounds one year after hauling in a career-high 6.6 per game.”
The idea that the Rockets would land a first-round pick in a trade for Tucker feels unlikely. A Western Conference official told Bleacher Report that the Rockets are “off their asking price.” Another scoffed at the idea that the Rockets will find a team willing to trade a first-round pick in exchange for Tucker.
“If they had a first for him now, he’d already be gone,” an NBA general manager told Bleacher Report.
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The Lakers Are More Likely to Be Active in the Buyout Market Than at the Trade Deadline
The Lakers have been connected to Tucker for some time, but it remains to be seen whether they are willing to give up assets for the big man. The Athletic’s Jovan Buha believes the Lakers are more likely to sit out the trade deadline and opt to sign a player who receives a buyout from their current team.
“The buyout market is probably the Lakers’ best bet,” Buha wrote. “I think they could be the No. 1 destination for a player at one of the aforementioned positions. Potential targets would likely include Andre Drummond, P.J. Tucker, Trevor Ariza and JaVale McGee (he’d have to be traded to another team and then waived to be eligible to re-sign). I think a trade is possible but unrealistic. The most likely avenue is a free-agency upgrade.”
Tucker Was Described as a ‘Physical MotherF—–‘ by an NBA Team Official
Tucker’s salary is $7.9 million as he plays out the final few months of his four-year, $31.8 million contract before hitting free agency. Fans may look at Tucker’s modest numbers and wonder why the Lakers are interested. Tucker’s real value is on defense where he can guard multiple positions.
“He’s still a physical motherf—– who can guard 2-5,” an NBA team official told Bleacher Report. “I don’t think he can guard Dame Lillard for 48 minutes like he did three years ago, but on a game’s last possession, he can. Therein lies his value.”
As for a potential trade, the Lakers have limited options to be able to match Tucker’s salary that would allow the deal to work under league rules. ESPN’s Bobby Marks detailed one of the few trade packages the Lakers could offer for Tucker that would work under the salary cap.
“For example, the Lakers’ lone option to acquire the Rockets’ P.J. Tucker ($7.9 million) is to send out $7 million in salary (a combination of Wesley Matthews, Alfonzo McKinnie and Jared Dudley) and still have enough money to sign a free agent to fill out the roster after the imbalance trade,” Marks explained.
Tucker’s Trade Preference Is Reportedly the Sixers
The Lakers are not the only team calling about Tucker’s availability. The Nuggets, Sixers, Heat, Nets and Bucks have also shown an interest in Tucker, per Fischer. Bleacher Report pegs the Sixers as Tucker’s preference, but we will see if Philadelphia is willing to give up assets.
“Tucker would relish joining Philadelphia and former Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, and the Sixers are one of the few contenders with real picks at their disposal,” Fischer noted.