Ready or not, another season of 76ers basketball is right around the corner. With that being said, it is once again time for preseason player profiles at Liberty Ballers.
We’ve already previewed several players, looking forward to how they could impact the team in the 2023-24 season.
Contract status: Second year of three-year, $33 million deal; $11.0 million for 2023-24; $11.5 million player option for 2024-25; UFA 2025
Last summer, in what became known as the Summer of Dawgs, the Philadelphia 76ers front office tampered so hard to sign P.J. Tucker that they ended up being stripped of a second-round pick by the league (with another being lost due to the Danuel House, Jr. signing). Sixers fans received the three-year, $33 million contract with mixed reviews. On the one hand, the Sixers had lacked toughness in bowing out to Miami in the previous second round of the postseason. Somebody who would just go out there and grab a long floor board no matter what was sorely needed.
However, if he picks up his final year player option and stays all three years in Philadelphia, Tucker will turn 40 years old in his final postseason with the club. So you understood both sides of the debate regarding the signing.
After his first season, the conversation persists. Tucker only averaged 3.5 points per game, his lowest mark since his 17 games during his rookie season with Toronto in 2006-07. He went a stretch in November where he scored a grand total of three points across eight games. He played through a “dead hand” issue — a pinched nerve in his right hand.
However, Tucker still had his moments when he shifted into “Playoff P.J.” mode. He made terrific hustle plays and played great defense down the stretch in an exciting November win over Milwaukee. He also ramped up the effort in the actual postseason, grabbing every offensive rebound in sight during the Brooklyn series, and having some real moments in the Boston series, where he shot 44.0 percent from three-point range. His in-game pep talk to Joel Embiid in Game 4 was the definition of veteran leadership.
The read on Tucker away from the court this summer is a bit enigmatic as well, after Tucker gave his two cents on the James Harden trade request saga.
And it’s getting worse. PJ Tucker has chimed in. pic.twitter.com/ydiGVkbGlN— Jon Johnson (@jonjohnsonwip) August 15, 2023
You respect the loyalty from P.J., who has been close with Harden dating back to their Houston days together, but it still doesn’t give you warm and fuzzies about Tucker being Team Beard. No one who has seen P.J. attempt to finish around the basket would confuse him as acrobatic. With Tucker’s name being thrown into the mix earlier this summer with regard to potential trade packages with the Clippers, there’s a slim chance he doesn’t even remain in Philadelphia through next month, although that seems unlikely with a Harden trade not appearing imminent.
Ultimately, the problem may be that Tucker was viewed as a finishing piece for a win-now contender, and the Sixers no longer have anywhere near that aura about them. His player option next year could also potentially get in the way of Daryl Morey’s plan to maximize cap space next summer. So it wouldn’t be surprising that if the Sixers were to slip in any way, Tucker could be elsewhere after the trade deadline, whether that’s with pal James Harden or without. Until then, try to enjoy the quirks in his game and take the bad with the good on the P.J. Tucker experience.