As teams, the LA Clippers and Houston Rockets couldn't be any further apart than they are right now. The Clippers, now in year two of the Kawhi Leonard and Paul George partnership, are in prime position to contend for an NBA title. On the other hand, the Rockets have moved on from both Russell Westbrook and James Harden in the past month and a half and appear to be heading toward a rebuild.
With that, a good chunk of Houston's roster may be available for trade. Obviously, guys like John Wall, Victor Oladipo, and Christian Wood are off the table, but there are more than a few role players who could add a little extra value to a contender like the Clippers.
One such player is P.J. Tucker, a three-and-D big/forward hybrid known for his toughness and defensive versatility. He'd been involved in trade rumors before the 2020-21 season began, and those have only persisted in the wake of Houston's four-team deal that sent Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.
According to The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor, several teams have already inquired about Tucker's availability in the wake of the Harden trade, and Houston is currently seeking three second-round picks in return.
The Clippers have more than enough second-rounders available to satisfy Houston's demands, but could a Tucker trade really go down?
In short, probably not. But let's talk about why.
For starters, the Clippers can't trade only the three second-round picks in exchange for Tucker. LA cannot take on his roughly $8 million salary without sending out close to equal value in return, meaning it'll need to include at least one player in the deal.
The most obvious play available to the Clippers is to trade Lou Williams for Tucker straight up, as that would satisfy the salary conditions, but there are a few reasons why this likely won't end up happening.
For starters, Houston has one of the most guard-heavy rosters in the league. In addition to Wall and Oladipo (the two starters), the Rockets still need to find minutes for Eric Gordon, Ben McLemore and Sterling Brown, who are currently earning over 20 per game.
Williams may well be the best player of the bench guards, but it seems more likely that Houston would prefer to return a forward or a big, as they'd be down a starter in Tucker.
Dealing Williams makes more sense for the Clippers, as the franchise recently re-signed Marcus Morris Sr. and brought in Luke Kennard, who pack plenty of punch on offense with the second unit. The team seems especially keen on developing Kennard's ability as a facilitator as well, which interferes a bit with Williams' role. The defense is the main area of concern for the bench right now, which Tucker would shore up.
That said, Williams has long been an integral piece of LA's core. Not only is he well-regarded in the locker room, but the front office has thrown him a few bones over the years as well. Trading him back to Houston after he's said the Clippers are his last stop would be a cruel move.
LA does have a few other options to explore, but none of them seem as likely. For example, the Clippers could try to deal a package of young assets including Mfiondu Kabengele and Terance Mann to Houston, but a few additional role players — like Reggie Jackson and Patrick Patterson — would need to be thrown in to make the money work. There's also the possibility that the Clippers engage other teams in a multi-team deal with Houston, but the number of moving pieces involved makes it tough to project how it would work out.
The idea of adding Tucker to the Clippers is nice, and his style of play and positional versatility would likely make him a near-perfect fit with the roster. If the opportunity presents itself, LA should jump on it. However, it just doesn't seem like there's a clear path to striking a deal unless the franchise is able to bring a few additional teams into the mix and part with key role players in the process.