• Rockets reward Tucker with fully guaranteed deal
  • Tucker to continue playing center despite his 6-foot-5 frame
  • Critics remain doubtful of Rockets small-ball philosophy

The Houston Rockets have gotten their fair share of criticism after dealing away centers Clint Capela and Nene in a recent NBA trade. That meant having to use someone else at the center slot who turned out to be 6-foot-5 P.J. Tucker.

Probably aware that small-ball basketball may not hold up, it was mentioned in a previous post how the Rockets tried to lure DeAndre Jordan from the Brooklyn Nets. It was a move that most felt was senseless, although Houston can still plug that middle hole through free agency or buyout candidates. So far, nothing has gained ground.

Regardless, the reality of it all is that the Rockets will have to make do with Tucker in the middle. Known to be one of the more durable players on the roster, the 34-year-old recently got his 2020-21 contract fully guaranteed, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. This means he will get the entire $7.97 million base salary which was previously partially guaranteed. He will become an unrestricted free agent by the 2021 offseason.

But as far as small-basketball is concerned, not many are confident of the Rockets chances in the coming NBA playoffs. Ben Golliver of the Washington Post noted that head coach Mike D'Antoni and Daryl Morey have been experimenting with undersized centers through the years. Before Tucker, there was 6-foot-6 Chuck Hayes. In the end, however, it may be wise to note that none of them pushed the Rockets to the last dance.

Regardless, the Rockets seem bent on sticking to that philosophy unless some talented big man becomes available. Tucker will man the paint for now alongside players with heavy artillery. That includes James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, and new recruit Robert Covington.

To his credit, Tucker has put up decent numbers this season. In 52 games, the second-round pick of the 2006 NBA Draft has averaged 7.4 points, 7,1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. His durability is what makes him a good asset but battling with taller centers and forwards will not be an easy task.

The Rockets feel they can compete despite the handicap in size. Not all may agree to that but Houston is out to prove critics wrong.

“We’re not smaller — obviously height-wise [we are]. But heart. Each individual got big hearts. We can compete with anybody,” Harden said in a tweet by Golliver.

PJ tucker
Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (17) reacts to a technical foul called against him in the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers at US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ, USA, Dec 23, 2013 Reuters/Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports