World news – Evaluation of the acquisition of P. J. Tucker by Milwaukee


If James Harden’s exit signaled a new direction for the missiles, P. J. Tucker’s deal on Wednesday was the final confirmation. Eric Gordon is the only member of Houston’s 2018 conference final team remaining on the roster. The Rockets are firmly in asset-buying mode as we near close of trading on March 25th. This is a significant shift from the situation a season ago. Life on the other side of the Harden era isn’t exactly glamorous.

Tucker will be dating D.J. later this week. Wilson and D.J. Augustine is coming back to Houston. The Rockets will likely swap their 2021 second-round player for Milwaukee’s first-round pick, and Houston will now also have the Bucks’ first-round pick in 2023 instead of 2022. This deal might not be a blockbuster, but it could have a notable impact in 2020-21 and beyond.

How did Houston do in its second big trade of the season? Let’s evaluate the deal.

It’s a worthwhile bet for the bucks to assume that Tucker will be better than before in 2020-21. The 35-year-old has a career low of 4.4 points per game on average this season when only 36.6 percent shoot from the field. Production drops as the Rockets drop in the overall standings. But Tucker’s ugly numbers so far don’t necessarily mean this is a player in serious decline. He wasn’t exactly the most dedicated rocket this season. Houston’s decimated roster has often left Tucker with a shortage of playmakers who can create open threes. This problem should be quickly mitigated when he takes the floor with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. Tucker is at its best as a complementary piece. He will not take a terrible offense. But with the right stars on the show, Tucker should get closer to the efficient 3-and-D option he had before the Harden trade.

As for the cost of Milwaukee’s addition, it’s tough with that to argue about what it’s given up considering what stakes are in the game. It is almost irrelevant to fall from the end of the first round, where the selection of bucks is likely to fall, to a selection in the early second round in 2021. Augustin’s build-up isn’t that important with Holiday in the Fold, and Wilson dropped out of rotation in January due to non-blowouts. Maybe Tucker won’t change their season, but he’s worth the modest price Milwaukee ultimately paid.

The Bucks are firmly in finale-or-bust mode in 2021, even if they know Antetokounmpo in the long run is there. They sacrificed a horde of picks to acquire Holiday. Why withdraw now? Tucker could make all the difference in a playoff game if he’s guarding Kevin Durant or James Harden down the track. He could get bruised with Joel Embiid in a pinch or tail Bam Adebayo at key moments. Even if Tucker’s offensive decline is real, his defensive effects remain valuable. Score one for the dollars in the Eastern Conference arms race.

What a difference a year makes. Rather than chasing after a ring of notable acquisitions, Houston is now trying to rebuild on the fringes by accumulating pick capital and intriguing young talent whenever possible. It is a harrowing turn to go from contender to the marginal finals to 17 straight defeats. However, it seems like the missiles are actually taking the right steps when they begin a painstaking reconstruction.

The cost of maintaining a perennial competitor in the Western Conference put Houston in a hole in the post-hardening era. The Rockets sacrificed two first-round picks and two pick swaps in Russell Westbrook trading, an unfortunate move that, in hindsight, started the cycle that led to Harden’s departure. General manager Rafael Stone has taken a new direction in the face of a pick deficit.

The Rockets received three first-round picks and four pick swaps from the Nets in Harden trading. Wednesday’s deal will bring another first-round player as well as a playable big to Wilson. A Victor Oladipo deal is becoming more and more likely before the end of March, and even if it hits the deadline, Houston would be well advised to make Oladipo a major trading exception and perhaps another young player in front of the free agency. Houston is likely a few years away from a playoff spot unless it wins the rights to Cade Cunningham. Taking the long term perspective and building a war chest of picks is the only real way forward.

This season was one of the most turbulent in franchise history. A decade of superstar drama preceded a dark streak of bad luck. However, the situation is not as bleak as the current series of losses suggests. Christian Wood is a legitimate offensive for a relatively cheap contract. Seeming to be a future lead actor, Kevin Porter Jr. shows off the weakest cues of early Harden if you blink hard enough. Stone has shown that, in the same way as his predecessor, he can make clever moves on the edge. With the right lottery luck, the Rockets could be back on the playoff hunt without a long absence.

Will Wednesday’s deal change the future of the franchise? It is unlikely. However, the accumulation of intelligent decisions can change the way a team works. If the Rockets continue to win picks and young talent, this miserable season could ultimately pay off in the future.

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