Lakers Interested in Landing Rockets Defensive Stopper

Getty Images LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers drives the ball against P.J. Tucker of the Houston Rockets.

The Los Angeles Lakers will be busy the next month as they explore options to bolster the roster for a championship run and Houston Rockets forward PJ Tucker appears to be someone the defending champs are interested in pursuing.

The Rockets have made it fairly clear that they’re not too worried about this year sitting at 11-17 and are trying to get a clear picture of the young players on the roster. A 35-year-old Tucker — who’s in the last year of his deal — does not appear to be a part of the future in Houston, but could be a valuable piece for a contender via trade.

The Lakers are among the teams keeping track of Tucker, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who revealed that Los Angeles has been “active” in trade discussions during an appearance on NBA Countdown.

“The Lakers have been active. I know they’ve made calls about some wing players to see if there is some shooting available out there. Another player they’re interested in: P.J. Tucker, from the Houston Rockets. There’s a lot of interest among contenders in Tucker, who’s in the last year of his deal. The Miami Heat, who the Lakers play tonight, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, several others. One thing I’m told is that Houston wants back not picks, but a player that they can plug back into their lineup.”

What Could Lakers Include in Trade for PJ Tucker?

A move for Tucker would come down to how much the Lakers fancy him. Would the Lakers be willing to part with a player like Talen Horton-Tucker or even Kyle Kuzma — both of who fit the description as players the Rockets could plug and play — in a very win-now type move for Tucker? Kuzma’s improved play on both ends this season and THT’s raw potential make it hard to envision a deal.

Tucker is averaging 4.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and is shooting 32.9% from three. The trade deadline is March 25, so the Rockets have awhile to work on a deal.

Trading Kuzma is a very complicated situation for the Lakers after signing him to an extension this offseason. Kuzma’s contract has a “poison pill” restriction, which means for trade purposes, the current contract of $3.6 million will count as outgoing salary. For the incoming salary of the acquiring team, the average of the last year of his contract and extension is used ($10.9 million) per Bobby Marks of ESPN.

However, the Rockets have a trade exception from its James Harden trade which could make a deal work, as Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus laid out on Twitter.

Lakers Also Interested in DeMarcus Cousins

Tucker is not the only Rockets player the Lakers are looking at. LA also has its eyes on big man DeMarcus Cousins, who will reportedly be parting ways with Houston in the coming days.

Cousins has played in 25 games this season with 11 starts, averaging 20.2 minutes. He’s scoring 9.6 points per contest with 7.6 rebounds while hitting at a 33.6% clip from beyond the arc. The Lakers would welcome Cousins as a depth player in the frontcourt, especially with Anthony Davis dealing with an injury that will keep him on the shelf for a month.

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