Rockets: 3 trades to send P.J. Tucker to the Lakers

Anthony Duckett
LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Montrezl Harrell #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
Montrezl Harrell #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

2. Houston Rockets receive Montrezl Harrell

The idea of a P.J. Tucker for Montrezl Harrell swap caused quite a stir on social media on Thursday. Many began questioning why the Lakers would make such a move, as the 27-year-old Harrell is younger than the 35-year-old Tucker and is perceived as a much better overall player than Tucker.

Upon taking a deeper dive into the specifics of Harrell’s fit and contract with the Lakers, it’s not as far-fetched as one would imagine. For starters, Harrell signed a team-friendly contract in 2020, which was a two-year deal worth $18 million, with a player option after 2020-21, which he will certainly decline, in favor of free agency.

Under Harrell’s original deal, he’s slated to make just $9.7 million in 2021-22, which is much lower than what he can land in free agency. Lakers GM Rob Pelinka knows that Harrell is essentially a one-year rental, and with the season halfway over, it’s time to re-evaluate the fit with Harrell.

The 2019-20 Sixth Man of the Year brings energy and immense offensive production off of the second unit, but he’s not a closer, in any stretch of the imagination, and his weaknesses on the defensive end would make it difficult for the Lakers in the postseason, not to mention the fact that Harrell hasn’t exactly performed well in the playoffs.

Moving Harrell for Tucker would give the Lakers arguably the most versatile defender in the league, as Tucker is capable of switching and defending any position on the court, while also being able to play a small-ball center.

In addition, Tucker’s elite corner shooting would spell doom for opponents with LeBron James’ court vision and ability to feed him open looks offensively. As currently constructed, the Lakers will likely give Anthony Davis more minutes at the center position in the postseason, with Marc Gasol as the reserve center, leaving Harrell to fend for minutes.

The Houston Rockets could also send future draft capital to the Lakers, including a future first-round pick from the Detroit Pistons, which could turn into two second-round picks if the future protections prevent it from conveying into a first-round draft pick. The value of this pick can’t be understated, due to the Lakers’ lack of draft capital.

For the Rockets, they would own the Bird’s rights to Harrell, allowing them to go over the salary cap to meet his asking price. Acquiring Harrell is a risk that the Rockets can take, as the pick they would send is heavily protected, and they’d otherwise lose Tucker to free agency if they don’t trade him.

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