Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker made some minor (offseason) headlines earlier this week, when The Athletic’s Kelly Iko reported in his great write-up about Tuck’s Team USA experience (sub. required) that P.J. is looking for a contract extension.
Tucker signed a four-year, $32 million deal in the summer of 2017, but the final season of his deal is only partially guaranteed, making this upcoming season the last fully guaranteed year in his contract. Tucker is scheduled for $8.3 million this year, but he told Iko:
“It’s now,” he said of getting a new deal done. “It’s time for my extension right now, so we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. I’m optimistic, we’ll see.
Tucker obviously wants to be back in H-town, and it’s been said that the team wants him back as well, but P.J. is 34 now and will be 35 in the final year of his contract. An extension likely takes him to his 37-year-old season. Is committing long-term money to an aging role player a smart move?
There’s no doubting Tucker’s importance to the squad. His defensive versatility, high motor, and wicked corner three have made him a perfect fit for the James Harden-era Rockets. He was also considered the “glue guy” for Team USA’s FIBA squad until he was forced to leave the team to nurse a twisted ankle back to health before the NBA year.
Tuck shot 37.7 percent from beyond the arc last year and averaged his most points per game since the 2015-2016 season with the Phoenix Suns. He’s both a physical and cerebral player, able to get rough and tumble when needed, but relies heavily on a high basketball IQ. In that sense, extending Tucker seems like a no-brainer.
But keep in mind, the Rockets have $123 million committed to Russell Westbrook, $122 million committed to James Harden and $72 million guaranteed to Clint Capela through 2023.
So while a two-year Tucker extension would put him on the same 2023 timeline as all of those guys, essentially making them a “Core Four” for the Rockets for the foreseeable future, it would also mean an additional $12-16 million committed for a team that already has $320 million (also counting Danuel House) earmarked over that time frame.
Eric Gordon’s $14 million is coming off the books this year, as he’ll be an UFA at season’s end, which does open up some additional money, but you’d like to see the Rockets utilize that space for roster improvements (even if it means trading EG before season’s end) rather than simply the status quo.
The Western Conference is wide open this season, so it’s possible the Rockets give it some time before making any kind of concrete decision on P.J.’s future. He doesn’t seem primed for a precipitous drop this season, but after age 35, all bets are off. Guys can get old on the court literally in a matter of months once they’re at that age.
Daryl Morey’s also no stranger to wheeling and dealing, so the team could also lock Tuck up with an extension to keep him pleased and then look to move him if things with their core move south at any point.
The Rockets also have a bit of a financial wild card in Tilman Fertitta. Who knows what he’s thinking on the matter right now?
I’m leaning towards simply letting things play out. They don’t have to extend Tucker right now, and P.J.’s not the type of dude to sulk when he doesn’t get what he wants. I love Tuck just as much as the next Rockets fan, but extending a non-superstar into their age 36 or 37 season is just a tough pill to swallow for me. Two more years of Tucker? Yes. Four more? Mmm... I’m not so sure. What does falling off a cliff look like for a guy with a 7.4 point per game career scoring average? It might not be pretty.
Should the Rockets extend P.J. Tucker?
This poll is closed
No, let him play out his deal and go from there
Yes, the guy deserves every penny. Lock him up till 37.
Yes, but only for one year.
Trade him while he still has value.
Um... I don’t see the word "Luka" anywhere in this article.