The Los Angeles Lakers have been interested in P.J. Tucker of the Houston Rockets for some time now, but it appears the interest has moved forward.
Tucker, the versatile 35-year-old forward, opted not to play in Houston’s game Thursday against the Sacramento Kings, voicing frustration since a trade involving him moving to a new team hasn’t materialized.
He’s in the final year of his four-year contract and shapes to be a palatable target for teams vying for the NBA championship, and the Lakers, the defending champions, are no exception.
The Lakers seem to have taken their interest in Tucker a step forward, as they are one of four teams involved in trade talks with Houston, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon:
The Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets are among teams that have discussed possible deals with the Rockets in recent weeks, sources said.
So far, the Rockets’ preference for a young, productive rotation player in trade talks has been a sticking point with teams, which haven’t been willing to part with that kind of an asset for a 35-year-old on an expiring contract, sources said.
Los Angeles is a unit devoid of young players that could entice Houston. On one hand, it makes sense. The Lakers just won a title, and that’s not usually accomplished by teams comprised of mostly young players. On the other hand, it makes deals like this tougher to negotiate.
Players on L.A.’s roster that are plausible for Houston are Kyle Kuzma, the 25-year-old forward, and Talen Horton-Tucker, the 20-year-old combo guard. Other than those two, two-way players Kostas Antetokounmpo, 23, and Devontae Cacok, 24, are young. But a deal involving those two is highly unlikely.
Kuzma’s stepped up this season, especially during the absence of Anthony Davis. He’s averaging 11.5 points (fifth on the team) and 6.7 rebounds (third on the team) on 44% field-goal shooting and 36.5% 3-point shooting. The Lakers just extended Kuzma this season, but parting ways with a rejuvenated version of him would be difficult.
Horton-Tucker is also intriguing. He made his mark during the preseason, earning significant minutes during the regular season as injuries and health and safety protocols have derailed the normal rotation.
Still, the 20-year-old prospect is averaging 7.2 points per game on 44.1% field-goal shooting. Though improvements from long-range, where he’s converting on 28.6% of his attempts, and defense are crucial components to work on, moving on from a player that was drafted and developed by the organization isn’t always easy, especially with the growth he’s illustrated on the court.
If the Lakers pull the trigger on Tucker, it’ll come down to how much L.A. values their young players versus win-now players. As stated in the report, the Rockets are struggling to find the young asset they are looking for in trade talks so may ultimately have to settle for a second-round pick and salary filler.
Lakers in market for LaMarcus Aldridge
The Lakers also lack quality big men, which has manifested itself in the absence of Davis. Marc Gasol hasn’t played the way L.A. hoped thus far, and Damian Jones, on a 10-day contract, isn’t a staple on the roster yet.
Montrezl Harrell has been solid as a four or a situational five, but the Lakers need more from the center slot, and with LaMarcus Aldridge on the outs with San Antonio, the rumors connecting the two are in full swing.
Aldridge has expanded his range on offense the last two seasons, and that 36% clip could intrigue L.A. as Gasol hasn’t been consistent from deep. However, Aldridge’s mobility has dwindled, and it’s been a point of emphasis for opposing offenses, which could cause issues for L.A.’s defense. It’ll be interesting to see how hard L.A. pursues Aldridge if they do think he’s plausible, considering they missed out on Blake Griffin who joined the Brooklyn Nets.
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