PJ Tucker

Tucker doesn’t make Bucks favorites, but he increases postseason chances

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A P.J. Tucker trade has finally gone through. It was the Milwaukee Bucks who won the Tucker bidding in what ended up being a surprisingly complex deal.

Any analysis of this Tucker trade is complicated. Giving up an unprotected 2023 first sounds like a high price alongside D.J. Augustin and D.J. Wilson. This should be viewed through the prism of the Bucks as title contenders, though, and as a team with an ageing Brook Lopez and without control over their draft picks.

P.J. Tucker trade analysis

The version of Tucker seen in Houston this season is alarming for Bucks fans. He’s lost a step and shot the ball poorly, but some could put that down to circumstances. Perhaps, like Nicolas Batum in Los Angeles, joining a contender will reinvigorate Tucker.

Tucker ranked ninth in ESPN’s real plus/minus among power forwards last season. His reputation is built on defense. Tucker can guard multiple positions, he can play the three, four and five. Undersized at 6’5, Tucker’s rebounding weakness is compensated for on the Bucks roster with Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s presence. The version of Tucker which was the ideal right-hand man to James Harden can be a massive boost to the Bucks.

That Tucker shot over 37% from three in 2017/18 and 2018/19. He did so on decent volume. More advanced metrics would downplay Tucker’s ability as a shooter, given his very limited role. He was strictly a corner catch-and-shoot guy, and while that makes him a near-non-factor on offense for some teams, that’s an ideal fit on the Bucks next to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The downside

The Bucks gave up more draft assets. This is not only a risk in case of injury to Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee is already short on depth and they are in cap hell for years to come with Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton (assuming Jrue Holiday pens an extension).


Teams in that spot can use the draft to build their depth. Maybe Tucker signs for a couple of years, but he’s already deep into his thirties. The Bucks roster got older with this trade, and they lost a ball handler in Augustin. Sure, he was unlikely to be a major factor in the playoffs, but he was signed to provide useful point guard play.

Of course, an injury to Tucker is the worst case scenario. Even if he’s healthy, though, this trade isn’t without downside. The Bucks could give up a good pick. Maybe Tucker walks at the end of the season after another playoff disappointment and Milwaukee is without assets. Perhaps the signs of ageing in Houston do not disappear with a change of scenery.

Bucks take a risk

Risk-taking is a part of being a contender. Front offices need to make moves like this, and it could prove a masterstroke. Tucker checks a lot of boxes for the Bucks, and he allows them to crank up the switching. Tucker, Holiday, Middleton, Antetokounmpo and Donte DiVincenzo in a line-up allows Mike Budenholzer to move away from the drop coverage of seasons past.

The price seems relatively high given Tucker’s performances this season, but this trade will be properly judged in the summer. How Tucker, and more importantly the Bucks, perform will define this deal.

Milwaukee do not become Eastern Conference favorites with this trade. However, this certainly increases their chances of making the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974.

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