Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee Bucks pay up to land P.J. Tucker from Houston Rockets

The Milwaukee Bucks are paying up to add P.J. Tucker to their rotation.

The Milwaukee Bucks are tired of falling short in the playoffs and needed a little help on the defensive end this season. What better way to address both concerns than adding a battle-tested, small-ball warrior like P.J. Tucker?

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bucks are sending D.J. Augustin, D.J. Wilson and Milwaukee’s 2023 unprotected first-round draft pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Tucker and Rodions Kurucs.

The Bucks will also get their 2022 first-round pick back from Houston, while the Rockets get the right to swap their 2021 second-round pick for Milwaukee’s first-rounder this year, unless it falls in the 1-9 range. Essentially, Milwaukee will move a few spots back from the first round to the second round this year if their first-round pick falls in the 10-30 range.

Bucks adding proven playoff experience to their roster

Milwaukee’s second-ranked offense hasn’t been a problem this season, but even as they’ve climbed all the way buck up to 10th in defensive rating, that end of the floor has needed more improvement for a title run, especially considering how stifling their defense was last season. Adding a stout, tough-minded player like Tucker, who can defend multiple positions and even log ample minutes as a small-ball 5, helps in that regard.

It’s also an under-the-radar smart maneuver to add one of the game’s notorious corner 3-point snipers as a release valve for Giannis Antetokounmpo with all the double-teams he inevitably draws. Tucker is only averaging 4.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game on ugly .366/.314/.783 shooting splits this season, but there’s hardly anyone in the NBA who would benefit more from a change of scenery from lowly Houston — losers of 17 straight — to a legitimate contender than him.

As for the Rockets, they’re getting a shot at a younger player with D.J. Wilson, as well as a respected veteran in D.J. Augustin, the ability to turn that 2022 pick from Milwaukee into an unprotected 2023 pick, and the potential to move up a few spots in this year’s draft from the second round into the first round. If the season ended today, the Rockets would be moving from pick No. 33 up to No. 25.

That’s a pretty great haul for the 35-year-old Tucker.

Even if the Bucks haven’t been regular-season juggernauts again this year, they now have a closing five-man unit of Giannis, Tucker, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez. That’s pretty darn formidable no matter where they wind up in the Eastern Conference standings.

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