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NBA Daily: Who’s the Next PJ Tucker?

A year and half ago, PJ Tucker’s career changed when his skills were put on a winning team. The following players could potentially follow suit.

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To whom it may concern, this isn’t about any college player who has a skill set comparable to PJ Tucker.

Instead, this is more about players similar to Tucker currently on some of the league’s weakest teams that could be of use to teams trying to win.

Tucker is one of the league’s more renowned role players. He is a dependable three-point shooter, he’s a fantastic rebounder for his size, and of course, he’s one of the most physical defenders at the wing position. He has been worth every penny since coming to Houston so far and will be counted on more now that Houston’s short on wings.

As good as Tucker has been for one of the league’s best teams, people forget that Tucker was once on a team that really had no use for his services. Tucker was a valuable player for the Jeff Hornacek-led Suns, but once it was clear that the Suns were rebuilding, the veteran had no place on the team.

It was at 2017’s trade deadline that Tucker’s fortunes changed when Toronto acquired him. After the Raptors traded for him, Tucker played a big role in the team keeping the boat steady in the face of injuries thanks to his defense. The Raptors may have been taken out easily by the Cavaliers a short while later, but Tucker proved how valuable he could be on a good team.

Now, his services are being used to the best of their abilities in Houston. PJ Tucker’s story shows that guys like him shouldn’t be on teams that aren’t winning anytime soon. Alas, there are quite a few guys in the league right now currently in situations just like those.

It’s never too late for their situation to change. Take Garrett Temple for example. He was wasting away in Sacramento until Memphis acquired him to aid their playoff quest. Hopefully, this could lead to other teams pulling off similar trades.

The following players fit the bill as a “PJ Tucker” type.

Courtney Lee – New York Knicks

It’s sad to see one of the league’s prototypical 3&D shooting guards never really find a home in the NBA. Everywhere Courtney Lee’s gone, he holds his end. Yet, he can’t seem to last more than two years on a team before he’s somewhere else.

That seems to be the case in New York. With Kristaps Porzingis out for the foreseeable future, Kevin Knox hoped to be the new face of the franchise, and Tim Hardaway Jr. ahead on the depth chart, there’s a lot of doubt surrounding Lee’s future in New York.

Luckily for both him and New York, the remaining two years and $25 million on his deal are pretty tradeable, especially for someone as useful as him. Lee has shot 39 percent from three throughout his whole career with a reputation for being a tough perimeter defender.

Lee also has been a pivotal mid-season acquisition before. Twice in fact. When the Grizzlies acquired him in 2014, Memphis’ offense got a nice boost from Lee because he was a better floor spacer than Tony Allen. Two years later, Lee fit like a glove in Charlotte because of their emphasis on the three.

As useful as he is, Lee has no place on the Knicks right now. It sucks that he might have to move again, but if he does, he should go to someone who needs him.

Kent Bazemore – Atlanta Hawks

Bazemore has been a good soldier since playing in Atlanta. He’s seen the highest of the highs (the 2015 Hawks) and the lowest of the lows (the 2018 Hawks). Bazemore is a great locker room presence who can mentor some of the young talents the team has accumulated. Some of that young talent includes Taurean Prince, who might phase Bazemore out as he continues to grow.

As good of a teammate as he is, Bazemore’s talents are being put to waste in Atlanta now that they are approaching Year Two in their rebuild. This summer, the Hawks acquired Justin Anderson, who is unproven but has shown some potential. The Hawks may try to develop him along with the rest of the young guns.

Bazemore fits the 3&D prototype. He’s steadily improved his three-point shot, as he shot a career-high 39 percent from three. Unlike Lee, though, advanced metrics support the notion Bazemore is a serviceable defender. He ranked sixth among small forwards in Defensive Real Plus-Minus (0.96), and the Hawks’ defense surrendered 1.5 points per 100 possessions less with Bazemore on the floor.

With an $18 million salary this season, Bazemore is overpaid, but guess what? So is a good chunk of the rest of the league. Since Bazemore has proven himself in the playoffs, he might be a risk worth taking.

Jonathon Simmons – Orlando Magic

Simmons built off a great playoff performance with the Magic last season with an increased role. He saw his numbers go way up across the board. Sadly it’s with a team that’s only now starting to find its direction with its youth. Simmons has only been in the NBA for three years, but he’s going to be 29 once the season starts.

Advanced metrics really don’t support Simmons’ case this season, but his playoff performance from 2017 does. Simmons’ athleticism really helped the Spurs make it all the way to the Western Conference Finals while also averaging 10 points on 45 percent shooting including 35 percent from deep. He deserved the money he got from Orlando. The problem is, he’s playing for a young team that looks that looks like it’s going to rebuild some more after already rebuilding.

Simmons might also struggle to find time behind Evan Fournier, Jonathan Isaac, and maybe even Terrence Ross. Since he’s adequately paid, he wouldn’t be hard to deal.

DeMarre Carroll – Brooklyn Nets

Unlike the previous three mentioned, Carroll is on an expiring contract, so he would be hard to pry away. Brooklyn supposedly aims to have as much cap room as possible for next summer. If he’s leaving Brooklyn, it would probably be via buyout.

After a tough tenure in Toronto, Carroll had a nice redeem season in Brooklyn. The 13 points and 6.6 rebounds he averaged with the Nets is the highest he’s averaged since his breakout year in Atlanta in 2015. What makes him appealing as an asset would be that he is playing in a contract year. He should be going all out in hopes of securing his next contract. Especially since he’s 32 years old.

Whether he stays in Brooklyn for the entire season depends on their own season outlook. Now that Brooklyn is free from the repercussions of that awful KG/Paul Pierce trade, they control their own destiny. They can do what they want with Carroll.

These guys may all very well stay put this season, but given that the teams that they play for aren’t exactly top-notch, it would be a shame to see wings see another season of theirs go to waste.

Matt John is a staff writer for Basketball Insiders. He is currently a Utah resident, but a Massachusetts native.

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