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Ranking reported P.J. Tucker trade suitors based on fit

P.J. Tucker, Rockets, Jazz, Bucks, Nuggets

P.J. Tucker looks poised to be the next veteran player traded by the Houston Rockets.

Tucker is in the midst of an underwhelming season from a production standpoint. Averaging just 4.6 points and 4.7 rebounds across 29.9 minutes per contest for the Rockets team, the 35-year-old forward is having the worst season of his NBA career since becoming a rotation fixture in the 2012-13 season with the Phoenix Suns.

With that said, Tucker is still a capable and proven player and probably won’t be a Rocket for much longer. He’s a tough defender, a veteran leader, and a respectable outside shooter who can contribute for a championship contender. Speaking of such, the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, Utah Jazz, and Denver Nuggets are reportedly interested in trading for Tucker.

Here’s how these reported trade suitors rank based on fit to acquire P.J. Tucker’s services.

4) Utah Jazz

Utah is an NBA-best 27-7. While they should be open to making trades to bolster their rotation, acquiring Tucker would be an unnecessary transaction.

This is one of the best three-point shooting and overall defensive teams in the NBA; the Jazz went into Sunday third in the NBA in opponent points per game (106.5) and fourth in three-point shooting percentage (39.6 percent). Any team that acquires Tucker would be looking to improve these aspects of their roster.

Head coach Quin Snyder has plenty of depth and reliability in-between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Wings/forwards Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, and Georges Niang are respectable shooters and/or defenders. Plus, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson are having superb 2020-21 campaigns.

The Jazz don’t need Tucker, although adding him wouldn’t hurt and the Rockets might let him go for cheap.

3) Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets are off to a monotonous 18-15 start and should be scouring the trade market for rotational upgrades, which Tucker would be. He’d provide them with perimeter defense which the Nuggets lost with Jerami Grant and Torrey Craig departing in free agency last offseason.

At the same time, who are the Nuggets going to trade for Tucker and who does he present a clear upgrade over?

In-between point guard Jamal Murray and center Nikola Jokic is a combination of athletic, versatile, and steady scorers in Michael Porter Jr., Will Barton, Gary Harris, and JaMychal Green. Tucker doesn’t present an upgrade or more intrigue than the aforementioned players. Why would they trade from that grouping of players for someone who would be a downgrade or at least a rotation wash? Denver could be acquiring the forward to play an at best backend rotation role.

The Nuggets should be on the prowl for players under more team control than Tucker (he’s a free agent after this season) and players to take the pressure off Jokic and Murray.

2) Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks have been throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall in hopes of finally breaking through in the playoffs with Giannis Antetokounmpo (they’ve added Jrue Holiday, Bobby Portis, D.J. Augustin, Torrey Craig, and Bryn Forbes over the last five months). They can continue being aggressive by trading something to the Rockets for Tucker.

Milwaukee has struggled to defend the three-ball and limit opposing offenses, as a whole. They went into Sunday 18th in the NBA in opponent points per game (112.5) and 23rd in opponent three-point shooting percentage (38.0 percent). Tucker’s defensive prowess would add credibility to the Bucks on that end of the floor.

Plus, they need players who are smooth in the clutch. Tucker could be on the floor at the end of games for crucial defensive positions and be an outside option if Antetokounmpo or Khris Middleton are double-teamed late in the shot clock.

The knock on acquiring Tucker would be that the Bucks already have the wing depth and frontcourt height to go small late in games. They have a versatile roster, and giving up a rotation player and say a second-round pick isn’t a must, if you will, for their sake.

1) Brooklyn Nets

Injuries and depth are Brooklyn’s potential postseason kryptonite, and P.J. Tucker would improve them in both respects.

Kevin Durant is out through the All-Star break due to a hamstring injury, and Kyrie Irving has a well-documented injury history and is currently dealing with a shoulder injury. What happens if one or both of Durant and Irving miss time late in the season or even the playoffs? Head coach Steve Nash will need players with postseason experience who play with confidence (Tucker has 50 career playoff appearances under his belt).

Even at full strength, the Nets need depth. When you pull out all the stops to have a superstar big three (Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving) you need to be savvy on the trade market and closely monitor the buyout market for upgrades throughout the season. Yes, Joe Harris, DeAndre Jordan, Landry Shamet and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot are reliable starters/rotation players. That said, they alone aren’t enough for the Nets to go into the playoffs alongside their big three.

P.J. Tucker is an ideal pickup for the Nets. He should come at a cheap rate via trade and would provide them with more outside shooting, perimeter defense and veteran pedigree.