Could PJ Tucker be on his way to the Knicks?

P.J. Tucker has been a player that many Suns fans have looked to as a possible trade chip this season. For the first time it seems like there may be a valid rumor attached to his name.

According to Ian Begley who covers the New York Knicks for ESPN, the Knicks’ front office has targeted the Phoenix Suns’ P.J. Tucker with the hopes of improving their defensive mindset, a part of the team’s game that Head Coach Jeff Hornacek feels is severely lacking right now.

Last week Hornacek called out the entire team, from the top brass of the front office and the coaching staff to the players themselves, wondering if he has the players to play defense, and if his coaching staff has the right game plan in place to put the players they have in the right positions to play successful defense.

If we’re asking a certain guy to pick up at half court, we have to know, is he capable of doing that?” Hornacek said Tuesday. “We might have three guys on the team or four guys that can do that, and the rest of them might not be able to. So we’ve got to put them in those positions that they’re capable of [handling]. We’ve got to figure out how as a team, what we’re going to do that lends to everybody’s capabilities.

The Knicks are currently below .500 at 16-18, tied for 9th place in the Eastern Conference. The team is in desperate need of a defensive shakeup, and some in the front office believe that P.J. Tucker might be the player best available to help bring about the defensive renaissance that Hornacek needs to achieve if the team is going to not only make the playoffs, but also challenge teams in a lengthy series.

According to Begley, a move of Tucker to New York is not imminent. But Tucker is certainly on the

Knicks’ radar.

Should the Suns be interested in such a move, Begley specifically names C Willy Hernangomez, C Kyle O’Quinn, and SF Mindaugas Kuzminskas as possible targets for they may receive in return. None of those names would really move the excitement meter for most Suns fans, but any one of them would offer the team a little youth in return for the veteran Tucker.

Unfortunately, if the Suns are more focused on draft picks, it does not appear that the Knicks will be willing to part with theirs, as according to Begley,

[Phil] Jackson and the Knicks’ front office informed teams last season that they weren’t going to part with future first-round picks.

Regardless of the ultimate trade partner, trading Tucker for a first-round pick may potentially be even more difficult to ascertain given that P.J. is in the final year of his contract, ostensibly making him a rent-a-player should any team not want to retain his services by offering him an extension.

Nevertheless, since a trade of Tucker does not appear to be something that is likely to happen soon (at least with the Knicks), especially with the trade deadline still eight weeks away, the Suns have no reason to rush into a trade. If the Suns are most interested in draft picks over prospects, their best bet may indeed be to hold out a while to see if they could pry a pick away from the Knicks, or any other team that may come calling for Tucker’s services.

Remember, last season Phoenix’s biggest trade chip was Markieff Morris. General Manager Ryan McDonough managed to find the first-round pick he wanted in return, as well as two veteran players to help make the traded salaries match – Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair. Blair was waived immediately, and Humphries too, less than two weeks later after a short stint with the team.

A similar situation could occur with Tucker if they are able to obtain a draft pick, and the player(s) that they receive in exchange (if any) could be immediately waived, never seeing the court.

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