Houston Rockets: P.J. Tucker at the center position can’t be the solution

NBA Houston Rockets PJ Tucker (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
NBA Houston Rockets PJ Tucker (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Starting P.J. Tucker at the center position can’t be the solution for the Houston Rockets if they want to be serious contenders

NBA trade season in the NBA is finally upon us. The first blockbuster deal, and maybe the first domino of many to fall, was a four-team deal between Houston, Atlanta, Denver, and Minnesota. The details of the trade were outlined this morning after all the chips finally fell into place:

After shipping away big man Clint Capela in the deal and not receiving a center in return, the Rockets find themselves in an interesting situation with what to do at their now-vacant position. Their answer, however, was even more interesting.

It appears that 6-foot-5 veteran defender P.J. Tucker will be playing center for the team moving forward, or until they add another center via trade or in the buyout market. This move comes with a bit of a shock factor, as the extent of the Rockets “small-ball” lineup will seemingly get even smaller.

With Tucker playing the five, the Rockets’ tallest player on the court will be newcomer Covington, measuring in at 6-foot-7.

The changes to the Rockets lineup does make sense when looking back to the memorable 2018 Western Conference Final against the Golden State Warriors. During game four of the series, the Rockets were forced to shake up the lineup and slotted Tucker at the center position. The veteran was not outmatched on the glass as many anticipated, putting up 16 rebounds in the game while accounting for two steals and blocks.

On the other hand, his shooting from the inside suffered. Tucker went 0-4 while never looking quite comfortable on the offensive end. When facing off against 7-footers in the painted area, Tucker presents a huge mismatch for defenders to feast on.

While his go-to shot will always be that deadly corner 3, Tucker is going to have to keep improving his scoring on the inside if he wants to effectively contribute to the Rocket’s system at the five. Currently shooting 59.5 percent on shots less than 10 feet from the basket, that number is sure to decrease once Tucker steadily faces 7-foot defenders guarding the rim.

On the other side of the ball, Tucker’s patented defensive toughness is not as overly effective on the inside. When guarding shots from 10 feet or less, opponents are scoring on 56.4 percent of them. Once Tucker continually faces larger opponents with a wide range of post-up moves designed to expose smaller defenders, that number may be subject to change in the wrong direction.

If the Rockets plan to remain contenders this upcoming season, they are going to need another option at the center spot. New-comer Jordan Bell, acquired from Minnesota in the blockbuster deal, offers another solution to the problem at hand. But measuring in at just 6-foot-8, the Rockets would still be undersized against many teams playing with a traditional big man.

Next. NBA Trade Rumors: 8 bold predictions for deadline day. dark

Currently sitting at fifth place in the Western Conference, look for the Rockets to still remain active at the deadline, with many viable centers still on the trading block.