The Toronto Raptors already made their big splash in advance of the 2017 NBA trade deadline, adding Serge Ibaka from the Orlando Magic in exchange for Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round draft pick. However, Masai Ujiri wasn’t quite done cultivating his team for a playoff push, as the Raptors general manager snuck another deal under the wire by nabbing P.J. Tucker from the Phoenix Suns.
Tucker was part of a group of Phoenix’s expiring assets that were reportedly on the market on Thursday and this is a sharp upgrade for the Raptors. Jared Sullinger, who is headed to Phoenix, failed to gain traction after signing a free agent deal in Toronto this summer.
He appeared in only 11 games and was a clunky on-court fit due to his athletic and defensive limitations.
In Tucker, the Raptors add a veteran combo forward with the ability to shoot adequately from distance (35 percent for his career) and, more importantly, deploy high-end defensive intensity. The defensive end of the floor remains a weakness for the playoff-bound Raptors and, while Tucker isn’t a star at any level, his addition will help to stabilize Toronto on that end of the floor.
On the Phoenix side, this is a move toward the future. While adding second-round draft assets will not move the needle, the Suns stock their cupboard in terms of ammunition and the financial difference in adding Sullinger (who is an expiring contract in the same form as Tucker) is negligible.
Fans of the Raptors, like many NBA teams, would likely have hoped for a sexier move at the deadline, but the is a solid deal that improves Toronto in the short term without mortgaging big-time assets for the future.