The Milwaukee Bucks are acquiring Houston Rockets forward PJ Tucker in a trade to strengthen the franchise’s push to the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, sources told ESPN.
Bucks general manager Jon Horst had been persistent in his search for Tucker in recent weeks, and a deal was reached with Rockets general manager Rafael Stone on Wednesday afternoon, sources said.
The Bucks will send guard DJ Augustin and forward DJ Wilson to the Rockets for Tucker and forward Rodions Kurucs, sources said. The key to completing the deal includes redirecting draft picks the two teams had previously traded in the offseason. Houston is delaying the 2022 first-round pick Milwaukee owes to the unprotected 2023 draft, sources said. The Rockets have the right to trade 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 move back a few spaces 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 have the second-worst record. in the league – they seem destined to land.
Milwaukee is also trading forward Torrey Craig to the Phoenix Suns in a separate deal, sources said. The Suns will not send a player back to the Bucks in the Craig deal, sources said. Craig couldn’t find a rotating role in Milwaukee after leaving the Denver Nuggets to sign a free agent contract in the offseason, but he comes to Phoenix with defensive versatility and a proven playoff pedigree.
Tucker, 35, is the key to the trade for the Bucks, who were determined to add their defensive prowess and playoff experience to their playoff drive. Tucker and the Rockets recently decided that he would walk away from the team until a trade could be found. The Rockets, plagued by 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 have won 10 of their last 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, Portland and their own protected top-4 pick or Miami from Oklahoma City’s 3-way trade rights.
Tucker has been an essential role player during his three and a half years 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 measuring just 6-foot-5 during Houston’s brief small-ball experiment last season, and served primarily as a 3-point corner threat that spaced the court offensively. Tucker is in the final season of a four-year, $ 32 million deal. The Rockets did not guarantee the final year of the deal until February 2020.
Tucker, who played in 267 consecutive games until a bruised thigh knocked him out for two games in February, was late to training camp this fall and acknowledged that he felt unappreciated after discussions about an extension of contract.
The Rockets thought they were close to signing Tucker to a two-year, $ 17 million extension with $ 10 million guaranteed, sources said, but Houston headquarters resisted after Tucker’s camp responded with a proposal to a fully guaranteed two-year deal worth $ 24 million. .
Tucker has struggled this season amid the Rockets’ roster shakeup following Russell Westbrook and James Harden trades, posting career lows in points per game (4.4), field goal percentage (36.6%) and a percentage of 3 points (31.4%).
ESPN’s Tim MacMahon contributed to this report.