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Lakers remain interested in P.J. Tucker, but Rockets covet ‘young player’

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The Lakers might not have the assets to pull off a PJ Tucker trade.

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Houston Rockets v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

March has the potential to be an interesting month for the Los Angeles Lakers. Not only is it the month that they’ll hold auditions for their two vacant roster spots, but it’s also the month of the NBA trade deadline.

The Lakers didn’t make a trade at the deadline last year because they were confident that they would be able to find a contributor on the buyout market, and to their credit, their confidence wasn’t misplaced. It’s likely that they’ll go into the trade deadline with the same mentality this year and stand pat, but we know that they’ve inquired about at least one player who isn’t expected to hit the buyout market: PJ Tucker.

Last month, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that the Lakers were one of several contenders to express interest in the 35-year-old veteran. A few weeks later, that interest hasn’t waned, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, but new details suggest that they won’t be able to meet Houston’s asking price:

The Rockets have a veteran player who has the intrigue of many of the league’s contenders: Forward PJ Tucker. The Nets, Bucks, Heat, Nuggets and Lakers are expressing interest in Tucker, sources said. Multiple teams have sensed a deal could develop sooner rather than later for Tucker, but the timing is likely dependent on the Rockets’ asking price. As of now, Houston has sought a young player back in a trade, sources said.

The Lakers are going to find themselves in a similar situation with just about any player they inquire about before the trade deadline. Without any meaningful picks, expendable contracts or young players that they’re willing to part with, the Lakers really can’t get into a bidding war for anyone, at least not without affecting their rotation.

For example, a trade that sends Montrezl Harrell and Alfonzo McKinnie to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Tucker and Danuel House Jr. works under the cap, but is it realistic to think the Lakers are willing to move Harrell? Yes, it’s probable that he’s just going to walk after this season, and for that reason, there’s value in the Lakers trading for someone who will have full bird rights in the offseason, but does it outweigh the value of keeping Harrell for the remainder of the season? Probably not.

So, unless a player can be had for a second-round pick, the Lakers likely won’t be players for their services. Then again, the Brooklyn Nets got James Harden for Caris LeVert, Rodions Kurucs and picks. Anything is possible.

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