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Raptors Linked to Tucker, Suns Setting High Price
Wednesday, Feb. 3
Marc Stein of ESPN reported the Toronto Raptors are among the teams to contact Phoenix about Tucker, who is expected to command a "nice pick." Tucker, 30, is averaging 6.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game on 40.5 percent shooting through 50 games.
Those numbers are a marked step down from the last two seasons, during which Tucker became one of the NBA's most underrated two-way players. A tenacious defender with just enough shooting ability for defenses to respect, Tucker became an integral piece on a Phoenix roster competing for playoff spots.
However, like much of the 2015-16 roster, his statistical downturn has helped foster a Suns nosedive. Phoenix is sitting at 14-36, having dropped 20 of its last 22 games. The team fired head coach Jeff Hornacek at the beginning of February and replaced him with Earl Watson, who was on the bench for Tuesday's 104-97 loss to Toronto.
Tucker played 39 minutes in that contest and doesn't appear in jeopardy of losing his spot in the rotation. The Suns are currently in no place to be benching veterans, with guards Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight out of the lineup due to injury. Bledsoe will be out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury, and Knight hasn't played since Jan. 19.
“My job now is to get these guys on it every single night,” Tucker said in January, per Paul Coro of AZCentral. “We’re going to find five guys who go out and fight every single night, for every single possession and that is what it is."
Moving Tucker would make some sense if Phoenix's front office decides its current core won't work. Tucker and Tyson Chandler are significantly older than the franchise's remaining building blocks and should be first on the list to go. Chandler will be more difficult to move given his contract (three years, $39 million remaining after this season) and his poor play.
Tucker is under contract for a manageable $5.3 million in 2016-17. Given the massive cap upswing coming this summer, he'll be playing for below the mid-level exception. Even if his downturn this season is representative of his production going forward, any contending team could use his toughness and leadership.
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