With the Atlanta Hawks expected to look to bolster their depth at the trade deadline, P.J. Tucker has emerged as a reported wing target.
The Atlanta Hawks may have a different roster and are facing a more uncertain future in the long-term, but they’re approaching this year’s trade deadline in a position that will be familiar to them from the way their last 10 years or so have played out.
In fifth place in the standings with a record of 32-24, the Hawks know that they’re good, but they also likely know that they’re still not good enough to make any real noise when the playoffs come around.
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Having made a decision to retain Paul Millsap through the deadline until the end of his contract — or at least allegedly so — the focus for Atlanta’s front office in the coming days is now fixed on adding to areas of weakness.
Two of the most notable areas where the Hawks would seem to be in need of fortifying their options would be in the backup point guard role, and in either of the wing positions.
Although rookies DeAndre’ Bembry and Taurean Prince have been serviceable in limited minutes on the wing, as the business end of the season approaches it would seem to be in Atlanta’s interest to add some more experienced role players.
According to Mike Scotto of the Associated Press and Basketball Insiders, that could be exactly what the Hawks end up doing too. Scotto reported on Twitter that the Hawks are among a host of teams in playoff contention who are showing an interest in Phoenix Suns swingman P.J. Tucker.
Sources: Teams showing interest in trading for Suns swingman P.J. Tucker include the Raptors, Wizards, Clippers, Hawks, Celtics and Jazz.
With the Suns destined to miss the postseason comfortably, a number of teams have been said to be checking up on the availability of Tucker in recent days. Most notably, Sean Deveney of Sporting News described the Boston Celtics as having “expressed deep interest” in the 31-year-old’s service.
In terms of fit, there could be little debating that Tucker would be a logical pickup for Atlanta. Although Tucker has mostly come off the bench this season in Phoenix, he’s managed to keep his numbers in line with much of the positive play he’s provided for the Suns in recent seasons.
Tucker is a career 34.7 percent shooter from three-point range, who averages 7.8 points in 28 minutes per game. Those offensive numbers may not jump out as compelling reasons to trade for Tucker, but his strongest contributions stretch far beyond his work on the offensive side of the floor.
The North Carolina native possesses a blue-collar work ethic, which is demonstrated in his strong rebounding and gritty defensive effort.
The Suns are currently ranked 27th in the league in terms of defensive rating, but Tucker is still finding ways to influence the game on that end. He’s one of only five Suns currently posting a positive defensive box plus-minus, with Tucker’s mark of 1.6 standing out as the best on the team.
That combination of skill an experience would certainly boost the Hawks’ second unit, or even allow him to slot in nicely as a starter if coach Mike Budenholzer wanted to favor a more defensive approach.
There may even be some hope for a shooting jump for Tucker. With the Suns currently ranked last in the NBA in assists per game, ball movement is far from a staple of Phoenix’s play. The extra 5.3 assists per contest that lead to the Hawks’ sixth rank in that category, may just be enough to create open looks that help buoy Tucker back toward his previous career-high mark of 38.7 percent from deep.
Tucker is in the final year of his contract, which is worth $5.3 million for this season. He’d be an excellent fit for Atlanta, but they will certainly need to be careful not to give up any major future assets for what could amount to an 8-10 week rental.