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The Houston Rockets deal with P.J. Tucker, Rodion’s Kurucs, and Milwaukee’s 2022 first-round pickback versus D.J. Augustin, D.J. Wilson and an unprotected selection for the first round in 2023, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. In addition, Houston was given the right to swap its selection for the second round in 2021 for the selection for the first round in Milwaukee in 2021, provided the Bucks do not vote in the top nine. According to Wojnarowski, the bucks are also trading Torrey Craig to the Phoenix Suns. The Rockets had previously taken Tucker off the lineup when it was discovered that a deal was about to come. Now he has his wish. He’ll join a championship contender at the Bucks as Houston continues his step toward rebuilding.
Tucker, now 35, was previously one of the most versatile strikers in the NBA. In fact, calling him a striker might not even be right. Really, he’s a little ball center, an increasingly important type of player in the postseason when the best teams tend to downsize. Tucker has performed this role excellently in the past. Whether or not he can do this at his age is unclear.
Meanwhile, the rockets are pushing their reconstruction at full speed. Tucker is likely the first of several veterans to be treated as of the deadline. Rumors also concern Victor Oladipo and, prior to his injury, Eric Gordon. Houston has now lost 17 games in a row. Christian Wood’s absence is partly to blame, but the truth is that the missiles just aren’t built to win now. They recognized this and continue to prioritize the draft capital in response.
Tucker is one of the first major dominoes to meet this deadline. Almost every contender allegedly asked about him at some point. He fits into virtually any winning team and now, in a contract year, he has the chance to prove his worth to the rest of the NBA during a playoff run in Milwaukee. Here’s how both teams rate the deal:
The success or failure of this trade will be due to how much Tucker is left in the tank at 35. His season has been daunting to say the least. After shooting over 39 percent of corner 3 pointers in the last four seasons, he has dropped to 33.8 percent this season. Most defensive metrics point to a significant, but not overwhelming, decline. The eye test was similarly daunting. It’s hardly surprising given his age, but Tucker is no longer as nimble as he used to be. He’s still strong enough to contend with centers, but how effectively he can still switch to perimeter gamers is still a mystery.
The Bucks are betting he has at least one more run to go . It’s a perfectly reasonable bet. After all, Tucker spent years getting a neat look with a spoon from James Harden. Harden’s departure disrupted the entire offense, and Tucker was a victim. In the last two seasons he averaged almost 3.5 wide-open 3-point points per game. Now it has dropped to 2.1. Milwaukee should have no problem replaying the recordings Harden made for Tucker.
However, this trade is about defense, and even if Tucker is not quite himself, he is almost certainly still an upgrade . The Bucks have been # 1 in NBA defense for the last two seasons but have fallen to # 10 this season. To some extent, this is intentional. Milwaukee’s drop coverage has been revealed in the past two postseason, so bucks are switching more to prepare for the postseason. Brook Lopez is just too slow to participate effectively in this plan, and it comes as no surprise that Milwaukee’s defense was 5.3 points better per 100 possessions with him on the bench. The Rockets had the best defense in the NBA with a full 1.9 points per 100 possessions between Harden Trade and Wood’s injury, and Tucker’s share of that success shows that he can still be valuable when his team is competitive. Apart from Draymond Green, no center with small balls has been better able to switch defensively than Tucker in recent years. Houston was so pleased with playing Tucker in the middle that they completely gave up their traditional big men last season. Milwaukee won’t do the same. Lopez is still a valuable rim protector, and the bucks will likely still play drop coverage with their starters and against certain opponents. But they must be able to switch if they want to contain Brooklyn’s shots. At least Tucker is better at this than Lopez. What if he’s the old you? The Bucks are an elite defense again.
That covers the basketball portion of the deal. The asset share is just as important. By D.J. As the main breadwinner of the deal, Milwaukee not only escaped the final fully guaranteed year of his contract, but also moved on from a player who may have done more harm than good this season. Augustin makes 38 percent of his 3-hands, but only 34.9 percent of his 2-hands. His assistance rate has dropped significantly, and his tiny stature makes him a defensive negative. Finding a replacement won’t be easy, but Milwaukee actually managed to add a bit more flexibility to this deal.
The Bucks created around $ 3 million extra space under the tough one with this deal Cap. Some of this has to go towards filling Craig’s roster spot, but it does make any subsequent business that Milwaukee thinks is a little easier from a cap standpoint. The notion of Milwaukee making multiple acquisitions in a few timeframes seemed ludicrous prior to this due to a lack of assets, but the Bucks actually, in a sense, replenished their asset base with this deal. Why? They danced around the stepien rule, which prevents teams from doing without selection rounds in consecutive years. The Bucks had previously sent their 2022 first round player to Cleveland, but because they got him back in that trade, their selection became tradable for the 2021 first round. They essentially swapped it for Houston’s 2021 second round pick which they can trade on now. That choice will likely land somewhere in the low 30s, which makes it a worthwhile chip.
Does that mean the bucks will turn around and replace Augustin with him? Possibly, but getting a suitable salary will still be difficult for them. Wilson and Augustin are gone, and Kurucs cannot be summed up as a salary. That leaves the Bucks with three rather large pieces of floating debris: Pat Connaughton, Bobby Portis, and Bryn Forbes. All three play a key role in the rotation, but they add up to roughly $ 10 million. If the bucks are confident they can replace them in the buyout market, it might be worth trying to find out what a combination of the three they could get along with this selection from Houston. Even if they don’t do anything, they’ve probably saved themselves a bit of money by pulling out of the first round of this year’s draft as the second round selection is not on the rookie scale.
All in all, this is it about as well as Milwaukee could have done due to its salary and asset restrictions as of the cut-off date. Tucker isn’t quite the player he once was, and the risk of not trading an unprotected pick under any circumstances is significant, but the bucks got exactly the kind of piece they needed, and in a way which makes you more flexible in the short term. This is a huge win for Milwaukee as it seeks to build a roster that can compete with Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference.
This is a fascinating deal from Houston’s point of view. Technically, the missiles actually didn’t receive any picks, and it could be argued that they didn’t gain much in value either. They made their selection for the second round in 2021 a first choice, but remember whose selection it is. There is a non-zero chance that the bucks will pick last on the first round and the missiles first on the second round, essentially allowing Houston a one-slot upgrade. Realistically, it’s probably closer to five or six slots, but that’s not much, especially when you factor in the value of second-round picks that aren’t rookie-scales. Then they turned a selection for the first round in 2022 into a selection for the first round in 2023 of the same team, none of which were protected. It’s not a slam dunk on paper either.
But think a little more critically about Milwaukee’s situation and Houston’s motives will become clearer. Jrue Holiday is 30. Brook Lopez is 32. Tucker is 35. This is an old team and it’s not well positioned to reload by the draft or the free agency. The Bucks are all-in in the present. Your future is a little more difficult even with Giannis Antetokounmpo. With the possibility of Antetokounmpo getting dissatisfied in Milwaukee between now and 2023? This selection becomes much more valuable. Even if he doesn’t, the age of his sideline suggests that the 2023 selection will be a few slots higher than the 2022 selection that they already had.
Let’s say Milwaukee is even upgrading by five in 2021 Slots up, and the 2023 pick is five slots better than the 2022 pick. Given where these upgrades are in the draft, they’re almost certainly worth more than the kind of second-round picks Houston likely offered for Tucker has been. If the missiles could have gotten an unencumbered first round selection for him, they would have. That they didn’t indicate that most teams were only offering seconds, so the rockets got creative. In doing so, they have created more value than they would have by simply taking picks that will likely end up in their 40s or 50s.
That puts Houston in a relatively strong position when it comes to the 2021 draft. You now have three picks for the first round: Portland’s, Milwaukee’s, and either your own or Miami’s, depending on whether you finish in the top four or not. With these two extra picks for the first round, the rocket ammunition can go up even if they lose their own picks in this swap with the thunder. That’s worth a 35 year old on an expiring contract who hasn’t gotten better deals.
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