The Phoenix Suns are trading PJ Tucker to the Toronto Raptors, league source tells @TheVertical.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 23, 2017
Sources: Toronto is sending Jared Sullinger and two future second-round picks to Phoenix for PJ Tucker.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 23, 2017
Let’s get this out of the way: this is yet another tremendous deal pulled off by the maestro Masai Ujiri (and GM Jeff Weltman; I have to remember to include him too in these things). It addresses a need and does not give up much in the way of future assets.
The big question surrounding Tucker was the asking price. Most assumed the Raptors would have to give up a first round pick to get him. Would the Raptors be willing to give that up for a 9th/10th man who is a free agent at the end of the year? As it turns out, we were asking the wrong question — Ujiri and Co. somehow managed to talk the Suns into two second round picks instead. The Raptors also have to part with Jared Sullinger who, because of the injury to his foot in the pre-season, never got much of a fair shake. (Plus, oh yeah, the Raps got Serge Ibaka!)
The book on Tucker is easy to write. He’s 31 years old, and 6’6’’, but tough as hell and able to guard the 3 and 4-spots. (Ask DeMar DeRozan how tough he is as a defender.) As this is the modern NBA, Tucker can also shoot a bit from deep. He’s a career 34.7 percent three point shooter (he’s at 33.8 percent this season). His other main averages are: 7.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.5 steals. Nothing too flashy, but as DeMarre Carroll insurance, or as an injection of toughness into the second unit, Tucker is a huge upgrade for the back half of the Raptors bench (which is currently staffed by rookies or untested second year players).
Lost in the stunning destruction of the once bright Suns, was the role Tucker had there as part of a frontline with the Morris twins in 2013-14. That version of the Suns, before they went all trade-happy and messed with what they had, was an uptempo, rough-and-tumble team who could play small without giving an inch. As the Suns collapsed into a blackhole, it made sense on their part to move on from Tucker.
The gain here for the Raptors is obvious, as they’ve been toying with fate at the small and power forward positions for most of the year. It’s unfortunate Sully never quite got a chance to play, but the big man rotation needed to be shortened after the Ibaka deal, and the wing needed bolstering. This puts the Raps at a clean and clear 10-man rotation, one that provides flexibility and a certain solidness as the team looks to rebound for the stretch run.
My two favourite parts about all of this though are as follows:
First, the Raptors reunite with the only other second round pick they’ve ever selected who amounted to anything in the NBA. At 21, Tucker played 17 games for Toronto all the way back in 2006-07. He didn’t do much then and disappeared to Israel, Italy, Ukraine, Greece and Germany before returning to the league as a wizened vet. That he now joins the Raptors, and their other second round success story Norman Powell (who may as well be the guy’s Looper), is just an awesome turn of events.
Second, and this really can’t be overstated: the Boston Celtics stood pat. They’re still a good team, and still able (along with those dang Wizards) to mix it up with the Raptors. But they decided to once again sit on the pile of vaguely useful assets and hope for better days. The dreams of Paul George, Jimmy Butler or some other superstar are put to bed again. Maybe this will be the year the Celtics make it out of the first round? What fun.
We’ll have more takes on the trade, a summary of the day, a salary break down and everything else you need to know. For now, let’s party.