What the P.J. Tucker signing means for the Philadelphia 76ers

NBA: APR 02 Heat at Bulls
CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 02: Miami Heat forward P.J. Tucker (17) in action before a NBA game between the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls on April 2, 2022 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)

Based on the rumors leading up to free agency, it is no surprise that P.J. Tucker landed on the Philadelphia 76ers. The veteran has played a key role on several high-level playoff teams throughout the course of his career. Not only that, but Tucker was specifically referenced by Joel Embiid after being a valuable part of the Miami Heat team that knocked the Sixers out of the playoff last season.

Just minutes into free agency, the deal was confirmed as it was announced the Philadelphia 76ers agreed to a three-year $33.2 million deal with the veteran. This deal takes up the full Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception for the Sixers, which was opened up by James Harden’s decision to opt-out of his $47.4 million option. Both Joel Embiid and James Harden were active in the recruitment of P.J. Tucker, and Daryl Morey was sure to get their guy.

What P.J. Tucker Brings to the 76ers

P.J. Tucker has been a valued role player in the NBA for over a decade. He has career averages of 7.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Tucker has also shown an ability to stretch the floor as he is a career 36.4% three-point shooter while attempting 2.9 three-pointers per game. While it is somewhat concerning that he is 37 years old, P.J. Tucker has shown no signs of slowing down.

Tucker played a vital role in the James Harden-led Rockets team that was assembled by now 76ers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey. The former second-round pick led the NBA in corner threes made during the three years James Harden won the NBA scoring title. Tucker recorded a career-high in minutes and three-point attempts during his time with the Rockets.

Pairing the corner-three specialist with the gravity of Joel Embiid and the passing ability of James Harden has exciting potential. Just as Danny Green effectively capitalized on corner threes during his time with the 76ers, P.J. Tucker can fill this same role. The appeal is that there is more to Tucker’s game in addition to this. He also has a nice floater he uses when attacking the basket and his heart and grittiness are his number one calling card.

Another valuable aspect of P.J. Tucker’s game is on the defensive end. He does not back down to any matchup and can defend positions 1-5. While the value of Ben Simmons is ignored by most 76ers fans, the asset he was on the defensive side of the ball is greatly missed.

Matisse Thybulle is an eye-popping defender but cannot stay on the floor for stretches due to his lack of offensive ability. Tobias Harris has taken massive strides forward in his defensive ability, but it is not the best asset in his game. P.J. Tucker will likely be tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best player in most matchups. His versatility and intensity will make a major impact on this side of the ball.

P.J. Tucker’s Impact Goes Beyond the Numbers

There has been so much talk about the Philadelphia 76ers’ lack of toughness over the past few seasons. It was a common theme of the exit interviews from just about every member of the roster- led by Joel Embiid. When looking for a guy who can set the tone and bring toughness, P.J. Tucker is about the first name that comes to mind.

You can argue that the 76ers may have overpaid or that his best days are behind him, but it is pretty clear that P.J. Tucker fills this necessary role on the team. The previous 76ers roster has been incredibly reliant on the energy level of Joel Embiid. While Embiid gives it all on the court on a near-nightly basis, during the stretches of time where he looks tired or not quite locked in, so does the rest of the team. P.J. Tucker will help to change this and ensure that the Sixers bring it on a nightly basis.

By bringing in P.J. Tucker, the Philadelphia 76ers have added a guy who makes their superstars happy and is a terrific on-court fit and mentality improvement. The 91 games of playoff experience he holds will be important down the stretch. Philadelphia is focused on contending for a title next season, and adding P.J. Tucker is a step towards this goal.