4 players the Houston Rockets chose to hold on to way too long

Houston Rockets v New Orleans Hornets
Houston Rockets v New Orleans Hornets / Chris Graythen/GettyImages
2 of 5

4. P.J. Tucker

PJ Tucker has been the quintessential 3-and-D player, which is a skillset that has made him more valuable. Every team is looking for a player who can anchor down on defense, while also playing his role on offense.

For Tucker, his offensive value is solely fulfilled by standing in the corner and hitting open threes, which is usually most effective while playing alongside someone who can create enough gravity to draw the defense in and create open space for Tucker. Tucker doesn't have to have the ball in his hands, as he's not relied upon to be a primary scoring threat.

Tucker became a starter on the 2017-18 Rockets team during the postseason, as his defense provided juice to a lineup that was switch-heavy. Tucker's versatility and ability to defend every position on the floor made him a favorite under then Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni.

Tucker became a stable with the Rockets and was even the key to the franchise's decision to play without a traditional center and adopt the small ball strategy, as his ability to operate as a small ball center meant that Russell Westbrook could essentially play center on offense, as the lane was wide open.

The Rockets dangled Tucker in trade talks for several years, including when they famously pursued Jimmy Butler, offering a bevy of draft picks in 2018-19. The Rockets ultimately dealt Tucker at the deadline during the 2020-21 season, after they were clearly undergoing a teardown.

Tucker's play regressed significantly during that season, as he averaged just 4.4 points on 36 percent from the field, which was by far his worst shooting season in his career upto that point. Tucker also made just 31.4 percent of his triples during his Rockets stint and ultimately reached a mutual agreement to stop suiting up for the franchise, while they sought a new home for the defensive ace.

The Rockets' decision to trade Tucker after the organization's roster overhaul diminished his value because teams knew they had to move him by that point. Ultimately the Rockets got the Milwaukee Bucks' first-round pick and Tucker was able to win a championship that year.