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Adrian WojnarowskiSenior NBA Insider
- Host of The Woj Pod
- Joined ESPN in 2017
The Milwaukee Bucks are acquiring Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker in a trade to fortify the franchise’s playoff push in the Eastern Conference, sources told ESPN.
Bucks general manager Jon Horst had been persistent in his pursuit of Tucker in recent weeks, and a deal was struck with Rockets GM Rafael Stone late Wednesday afternoon, sources said.
The Bucks are sending guard D.J. Augustin and forward D.J. Wilson to the Rockets for Tucker and forward Rodions Kurucs, sources said. The key to completing the deal includes the redirecting of draft picks the two teams had previously traded in the offseason. Houston is pushing back the 2022 first-round pick Milwaukee owes it to the unprotected 2023 draft, sources said. The Rockets get the right to swap their 2021 second-round pick for the Bucks’ 2021 first-round pick — unless the Bucks’ pick somehow falls 1-9, sources said.
Essentially, the Bucks will be moving back a few slots from the end of the first round — where they will presumably be picking this season — to the top of the second round, where the Rockets — who own the second-worst record in the league — appear destined to land.
Milwaukee is also trading forward Torrey Craig to the Phoenix Suns in a separate deal, sources said. The Suns aren’t sending a player back to the Bucks in the deal for Craig, sources said. Craig was unable to find a rotational role in Milwaukee after leaving the Denver Nuggets to sign a free-agent deal in the offseason, but he arrives in Phoenix with defensive versatility and a playoff-tested pedigree.
Tucker, 35, is the key to the trade for the Bucks, who were determined to add his defensive grit and playoff experience to their playoff push. Tucker and the Rockets recently decided that he would step away from the team until a trade could be found. The Rockets, beset with injuries and an 18-game losing streak, are moving into rebuilding mode. The Bucks are 26-14, 1½ games behind Philadelphia and Brooklyn at the top of the Eastern Conference. They’ve won 10 of their past 11 games, including a 109-105 overtime win against the 76ers on Wednesday night.
The Rockets could have three first-round picks in the 2021 draft: Milwaukee’s, Portland’s and either their own top-4 protected pick or Miami’s from Oklahoma City’s three-way swap rights.
Tucker has been an essential role player during his 3½-year tenure with the Rockets, contributing significantly more than his averages of 6.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game indicate. He often defended the opponent’s top scorer — playing center despite standing only 6-foot-5 during Houston’s short-lived small-ball experiment last season — and primarily served as a corner 3-point threat who spaced the floor offensively. Tucker is in the final season of a four-year, $32 million deal. The Rockets didn’t guarantee the final year of the deal until February 2020.
Tucker, who played in 267 consecutive games until a bruised thigh sidelined him for two games in February, reported late to training camp this fall and acknowledged that he felt unappreciated after discussions about a contract extension broke down.
The Rockets thought they were close to signing Tucker to a two-year extension for $17 million with $10 million guaranteed, sources said, but the Houston front office balked after Tucker’s camp countered with a proposal for a fully guaranteed two-year deal worth $24 million.
Tucker has struggled this season amid the Rockets’ roster shuffling following the trades of Russell Westbrook and James Harden, posting career lows in points per game (4.4), field goal percentage (36.6%) and 3-point percentage (31.4%).
ESPN’s Tim MacMahon contributed to this report.