2. Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker
Aside from Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker is the only hold over from the Houston Rockets’ franchise record-setting 2017-18 season that nearly went the distance and won the championship. Tucker made sure to remind us of that when asked about how much differently the Rockets’ 2020-21 roster looks compared to when he first joined.
Of the players on the roster when P.J. Tucker first signed with the Rockets only Eric Gordon remains: "It's an adjustment everyday, just realizing it's me and Gordy, and Gordy don't say much so it's almost just me because he be so quiet, but it's totally different…" pic.twitter.com/MIzpRLIiK2
— Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane) January 18, 2021
Tucker started out as a reserve for then coach Mike D’Antoni but took Ryan Anderson’s spot in the starting lineup by the time the postseason arrived. The 35-year-old has become one of the best 3-and-D forwards in the league, as he’s always manned the assignment of defending the opposing team’s best scoring threat, regardless of position.
Tucker’s defensive versatility prompted the Rockets to play him at the center position in 2019-20, when they opted to play small ball, in order to give Russell Westbrook the necessary spacing to thrive. Tucker isn’t exactly a scoring threat on the offensive end, but he knows his role and plays it well, as he lives in the corner and has led the league in corner threes in each of the last three seasons and made 39.2 percent of them.
Tucker has also become one of the most durable players in the NBA as he’s started in 204 games since 2017 while also finishing seventh in total minutes played in each of the last two seasons. Tucker voiced his displeasure with the Rockets deciding against giving him a contract extension last season and made it a major talking point at the onset of training camp this year.
“I want to be where whoever wants me. No matter what, that’s the kind of player I am.
I give them my all, I leave my heart on the floor every single night, and I’ve done so my whole career, so I want to be where I’m wanted. The goal is to be in a place where you’re wanted.”
The Rockets have reportedly offered Tucker an extension since then but he’s decided against signing it, leading many around the league to speculate on whether he will be dealt. It’s been reported that the Rockets are seeking three second-round draft picks for the defensive ace, and many teams around the league could use a player of Tucker’s defensive prowess, not to mention his veteran presence in the locker room.
Considering how the Rockets landed Kevin Porter Jr. for a second-round pick, it’s understandable why Houston Rockets general manager Rafael Stone would be drawn to the idea of landing three second-round picks for a player that is bound to bail in the offseason.
Next: No. 1