Everything was lining up perfectly: The Rockets were imploding following James Harden’s trade, the team was reportedly looking to get younger by cashing in older players for younger counterparts, and Tucker was even granted indefinite leave as the club looked to find him a new home.
Heck, some even suggested that Tucker could be had for as little as a second round pick and may even be waived outright if no trade materialized.
But with one swift Woj Bomb, that all changed. Tucker’s contract became the property of the Milwaukee Bucks – who were mere minutes away from playing the Philadelphia 76ers- and multiple more picks and players exchanged hands in the process.
Is that a tad disappointing? Eh, maybe so, but in the NBA – and all of sports really – sometimes it’s the trades you don’t do that make all the difference, and in this case, Daryl Morey was right to pass on his former free agency find.
You don’t overpay for P.J. Tucker, Philadelphia 76ers.
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The Philadelphia 76ers aren’t a compete team, not yet anyway.
No, for all of the praise Daryl Morey got for assembling a contender out of a heap of mismatched parts, his team still lacks auxiliary playmaking, secondary ball handling, and most importantly of all, 3 point shooting.
Now granted, that didn’t stop the Sixers from tearing off six straight and sitting pretty atop the Eastern Conference with a 28-13 record, but if the Sixers really wanted to shore up their chances to make it to the Finals, they’d be wise to invest some of their current assets in optimizing the primes of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris.
With that being said, the Sixers also can’t be foolish with their assets either.
A big reason why Harden currently dons a black, white, and occasionally blue jersey instead of good old American red, white, and blue is because Daryl Morey was unwilling to package away his team’s entire future picks, and second best player, and multiple young players to bet it all on one player.
Was that the correct decision? Hm… I guess that depends on who you ask, but it certainly hasn’t hurt the team too much in the wins-losses column, as both Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle have been essential parts of the Sixers’ current run and look to be fixtures of Doc Rivers’playoff rotation.
So, if Morey wasn’t going to overpay for a future Hall of Famer, a stepback artist, and arguably the most unguardable outside scorer in the NBA, why on earth would he do so for a 6-foot-5 power forward averaging 4.4 points per game?
Yeah, beats me.
But do you know which team kinda, sorta was willing to shell out an overpay for a marginal upgrade over their current rotational options? That would be the Milwaukee Bucks.
Despite turning in three straight seasons with the best record in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks entered the 2020 NBA offseason in crisis. Their top player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, was eligible for the supermax extension, and with teams like the Miami Heat patiently waiting in the wings for his services, some openly opined over whether he’d remain in Milwaukee upon season’s end.
Would the Freak play out the 2020-21 season on a lame-duck contract only to sign elsewhere a la Kareem? Or would he pull a Jimmy Butler and force his way out of Milwaukee one way or another?
Well, as it turns out, the Bucks would do everything in his power to keep Antetokounmpo happy, even if it meant mortgaging their future to get a deal done.
First came the decision to trade a small fortune – three first round picks and two pick swaps plus Eric Bledsoe and George Hill in a four-team deal – to the New Orleans Pelicans for a package centered around Jrue Holiday. The Bucks then agreed to a sign-and-trade to acquire Bogdan Bogdanovic before turning their attention to free agency to put the finishing touches on yet another title contender.
Only, here’s the thing: Bogdanovic never technically agreed to a sign-and-trade, and the deal became inexecutable, much to the chagrin of Milwaukee’s finest.
Sure, the Bucks were able to fill out their roster with solid secondary options like D.J. Augustin, Bryan Forbes, and Bobby Portis, but they couldn’t land another difference maker to fill out their starting lineup alongside Holiday, Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez, and Kris Middleton.
Tucker isn’t that player. He’s a stout, multiple position defender who can be counted on for 4.4 points and 4.6 rebounds a night while hitting 31.4 percent of his 2.7 shots from beyond the arc.
On the Sixers, Tucker would have filled a massive need while keeping the team as a multiple position front court player when Harris, Simmons, and Embiid are off the court, but even the most optimistic fan/sneakerhead looking to lay eyes on some heat would be foolish to call the 35-year-old a legit difference maker.
Even if Tilman Fertitta and company were willing to make a deal with Morey, which I’m not sure is in the cards, would the Sixers have been willing to trade an unprotected first, two players, and a second-for-first round pick swap in 2021 for a player on an expiring contract that many feel is washed?
No, I don’t think they would.
In a perfect world, P.J. Tucker would have been bought out, cleared waivers, and signed with the Philadelphia 76ers a la Marco Belinelli in 2018. In a less perfect but still pretty darn good world, the Sixers would have been able to secure his services packaged alongside a difference-making guard like Eric Gordon or Victor Oladipo to really put the roster over the top. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Sometimes a deal just doesn’t make sense, and frankly, I applaud Daryl Morey for not getting too antsy and pulling off a bad trade just to ease Joel Embiid’s absence.
Oh well, on to the next hypothetical trade. Is Larry Nance still available?