We already knew that the Los Angeles Lakers had talked to the Houston Rockets about a trade for disgruntled veteran forward P.J. Tucker as he stepped away from the team last week. On Monday morning, we learned that the two sides are apparently still talking, with the March 25 trade deadline just 10 days away.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, however, the Lakers aren’t the only team still in the hunt for Tucker, and it doesn’t sound like a deal should be considered imminent:
The Rockets remain engaged with several teams — including Milwaukee, Miami and the Lakers — but sources say Houston’s desire for a young talented player has set a strong price in any potential deal for the 35-year-old forward. The Nets had pursued Tucker, a deal that would have required injured starting guard Spencer Dinwiddie’s contract, but sources say Brooklyn is no longer believed to be involved in the Tucker market. The Nets recently signed six-time All-Star Blake Griffin to bolster the front court.
The good news here is that if the Nets are out of the hunt, that’s one less team to grab Tucker. And even if you don’t like his game, it’s at least one less organization to drive the price for him up in a potential deadline bidding war.
The bad news — at least for those that would like to add Tucker to this roster, a group that does apparently include the Lakers, based on multiple reports now — is that they may not have the most appealing package for the veteran forward. As we pointed out in our last story on this possibility, a Montrezl Harrell for Tucker trade works straight up, but given the reaction from the comments section on that one, that’s not a move very many of you would like to see. It would at least probably outbid what the Bucks or Heat would be offering, though.
Another way to get Tucker on the Lakers, however — other than waiting and hoping he gets bough out — would see the purple and gold give up a bit less, and was honestly a deal I had not really considered until Sunday. But with Jared Dudley injured and possibly out for quite a while, there is at least a possibility the Lakers would be more willing to move on from their beloved chemistry guru than conceived previously, and as my friend Ralph Mason first pointed out on Twitter, the below trade works in ESPN’s trade machine:
That deal would likely need the Lakers to at least include a second-round pick, but in terms of on-court upside is hard to beat, as the Lakers would be trading three guys who have played a total of 787 minutes for one guy who has played 959 and potentially raises the ceiling of their best playoff lineups with Anthony Davis at the five.
Now, it’s unlikely that such a deal is super attractive to the Rockets, which is likely why Charania reports that talks have hit an impasse. There is also the matter that this would see the Lakers drop their roster down to just 12 players (including current 10-day signing Damian Jones, who, depending on when this deal is made, may be gone himself), meaning they’d need to add at least two more (and possibly three) to be at the league minimum for a roster. They would also need at least Dudley’s consent to do this deal, as an upcoming free agent who just re-signed with them on a one-year deal.
And as if all of that wasn’t enough of an obstacle, Houston also have to cut players to make this deal work, and because the Lakers are up against the hard cap, the league might veto this trade outright, and for much better reasons than the Lakers’ most infamous vetoed deal that involved the Rockets. The Lakers would need to show the league that they had a plan to get up to the roster minimum, and would probably have to cut costs to do so, doing something like moving Markieff Morris — who Tucker would be replacing anyway — for nothing. But then that creates another roster spot to fill, making this even tougher.
That’s... a lot... of roster upheaval for a championship contender in the middle of the season, but hopefully illustrates how difficult it would actually be for the Lakers to add Tucker in a trade that isn’t for a player like Harrell straight up, which is why a buyout is the much more feasible way for them to do so. I mean, would the Lakers go through all those gymnastics to add Tucker? Who knows, but until Tucker’s other suitors up their offers, the Lakers don’t necessarily have a reason to do so, which might be why both sides seem to be in a holding pattern, even if they aren’t cutting off discussions. It’s just tough to find a deal that makes sense for both teams.
Over the next 10 days, we’ll see who blinks first, but long story short, a buyout is a much more realistic way for the Lakers to add Tucker.