If you can’t beat ‘em, sign ‘em to your team.
The Sixers are expected to finalize a deal with veteran forward P.J. Tucker, a source confirms to Liberty Ballers. Shams Charania of The Athletic was the first to report the agreement for three years and $33 million.
A lack of toughness was brought up several times as a factor for the Sixers losing in six games to the Heat. So, Daryl Morey went out and signed one of the grittiest players in the league away from Miami. The hope for the Sixers is the 37-year-old Tucker can do what he did the last two seasons in helping the Bucks win a title and the Heat get to a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It will also be a reunion for Morey, Tucker and James Harden. As the GM of the Rockets, Morey in 2017 signed Tucker to play a complementary role to Harden. In that first season, Houston took the Warriors to seven games in the Western Conference Finals. They failed to make it out of the second round the following two seasons.
It’s difficult to quantify Tucker’s impact based on raw statistics, though this past season he saw an uptick in offensive production with a slightly bigger role in Miami. If you watched the Heat play the Sixers, you saw how Tucker made his presence felt. He hounded Harden as an on-ball defender. He grabbed every loose ball, exploiting the Sixers’ rebounding struggles by grabbing 2.3 offensive rebounds per game. The quantity wasn’t high, but he was timely and efficient with his scoring, shooting 52.5 from the field and 43.8 from three. Simply put, Tucker is a winning basketball player.
Just ask Joel Embiid.
“You look at someone like P.J. Tucker — great player, but it’s not about him knocking down shots,” Embiid said after the Sixers’ embarrassing Game 6 loss. “It’s about (the other things) he does, whether it’s on the defensive end or rebounding the ball. You look at obviously defensively, he plays with so much energy. He believes that he can get from Point A to Point B, and he believes that no one can beat him. And he’s tough. He’s just physical and he’s tough. ... And since I’ve been here, I would be lying if I said that we’ve had those type of guys. Nothing against what we have, it’s just the truth. We never have P.J. Tucker; that’s really what I’m trying to say.”
The contract is admittedly eyebrow raising for a 37-year-old. Fully guaranteeing a contract that runs into Tucker’s age-40 season is risky. It’s fair to note that Tucker does keep himself in excellent shape and was arguably the Heat’s third-best player during their postseason run. How much does he have left in the tank? It’s impossible to know, but his age-36 season went pretty damn well.
Tucker’s mentality is likely explained by the path he took to get to this point. After a successful stint at Texas, Tucker was drafted in the second round (35th overall) by the Raptors. After playing a total of 83 minutes his rookie season, Tucker decided to play overseas. He carved out an excellent career playing in Israel, Ukraine, Greece, Italy, and Germany.
He earned himself an NBA deal with the Phoenix Suns after a successful summer league stint. Now, he’s developed into one of the best role players in the league.
The Sixers needed to get tougher. Signing Tucker is a good start, but time will tell if that leads to a championship.
I discussed the signings of Tucker and House with Jas Kang on the latest episode of Sixers Daily. You can listen to the full episode below:
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