The 2021 NBA trade deadline, set for March 25, is still more than a month away, but the Los Angeles Lakers are taking a proactive approach to potentially improve their roster.
An area of interest is a wing player who can provide a boost in shooting. Other than LeBron James, the Lakers have a mixed bag of results when it comes to their wings.
The Lakers have truncated Kyle Kuzma’s offensive role, and he’s been more efficient as a result. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a blistering start but has since cooled off in the past eight games. Wesley Matthews, at 34 years old, is a solid rotational depth piece, but he won’t revert to his prime abilities.
Talen Horton-Tucker, 20, can careen downhill, but he’s not a reliable presence from deep. Then you have Alfonzo McKinnie, who has barely registered any minutes this season.
It’s reasonable for the Lakers to scour the market in hopes of detecting an upgrade, and on ABC’s “NBA Countdown” Saturday, the Lakers reportedly have interest in P.J. Tucker of the Houston Rockets, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
“The Lakers have been active. I know they’ve made calls about wing players to see if there is some shooting available. Another player they’re interested in is 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. … One thing I’m told is that Houston wants back not picks, but a player they can plug back into their lineup.”
Tucker, who is turning 36 in May, is currently in the last year of a four-year contract worth nearly $32 million. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent upon the season’s conclusion, so if the Lakers move forward with a trade, it would be interesting to see if they pursue re-signing him.
Tucker’s a unique breed in the NBA. He played the majority of his minutes as a small forward in his earlier seasons in Phoenix but transitioned to power forward during his current stint with Houston. The Rockets notoriously utilized Tucker as a small-ball center last season, but they’ve flipped him back to a 4 with Christian Wood’s emergence.
Tucker wouldn’t necessarily provide the quality shooting the Lakers purportedly are searching for. His percentages have dwindled in the last few seasons. Two years ago, Tucker shot 37.7% from deep on 4.7 attempts a game. This season, he’s down to 32.9% on 2.8 attempts.
He’s not a shot creator either, so he won’t relieve any pressure off James, or Anthony Davis and Dennis Schroder once they return.
However, Tucker is still a talented defender in pick-and-rolls, help defense, weak-side defense, 1-on-1 scenarios, steals, box-outs and more. The Lakers currently have the best defensive rating in the league, 105.3, and Tucker would only help improve that.
However, Houston wants a player who can immediately help them in return. They’re currently stacked with a guard rotation of John Wall, Victor Oladipo and Eric Gordon, and since they’re sending a wing, they’d likely want a younger one in return who fits the timeline of Wall, Oladipo and Wood.
Lakers reportedly among teams interested in DeMarcus Cousins
Tucker isn’t the only member of the Rockets catching the Lakers’ interest. DeMarcus Cousins is on the outs with Houston, and the Lakers reportedly have interest.
With Davis sidelined for approximately four weeks and Marc Gasol struggling, L.A. could bring back Cousins to play some spot minutes to help fill the void.
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