The Houston Rockets announced that they had acquired free agents guard P.J. Tucker and center Zhou Qi with the club’s mid-level exceptions. Tucker has reportedly signed a four-year contract worth $34 million and is expected to take part in the regular rotation alongside Most Valuable Player runner-up James Harden and another recent acquisition, point guard Chris Paul, when the season starts in October.
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey called Tucker, “just what this team needs.” After consulting with Harden, Paul, and head coach Mike D’Antoni, Morey found that they all agreed that “we need toughness (and) we need defense. P.J. Brings that in spades.” He also said that signing Tucker and keeping center/power forward Nene “are two huge steps in the right direction.”
A twelve-year pro and a veteran of both the NBA and numerous European leagues, Tucker has shown defensive toughness throughout his career. At six-foot-five, Tucker plays as a “tweener”, who can defend against both bigger guards and smaller forwards. Morey said that the value in players like Tucker lies “in their ability to guard teams that have threats all over the floor.”
Morey also addressed how the Tucker signing can help the Rockets become title contenders for the first time in years. He acknowledged that, as the defending champions, the Golden State Warriors are the favorites to win it all again next year. However, he also said that the current crop of players “is a group that can compete with them.”
“We obviously felt we needed to close the gap,” Morey said. “We felt we have closed the gap.”
Tucker’s signing may have brought a potential asset to the Rockets, but it also may have cost them the opportunity to make a significant trade. The Rockets were reportedly in talks with the Cleveland Cavaliers to acquire Iman Shumpert, who fills a similar role at his position.