All signs point to P.J. Tucker rounding out Sixers’ starting five

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 21: Houston Rockets Forward PJ Tucker (17) looks on after a stop on defense during a NBA game between the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Clippers on October 21, 2018 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

P.J. Tucker was spotted at the Sixers’ media day taking photos with four of Philadelphia’s projected starters, pointing to him being inserted into the last starting spot. It was announced that same day that Tucker underwent a successful arthroscopic surgery during the offseason that was timed to allow him to fully participate in training camp with no on-court restrictions, an optimistic surprise for the Sixers’ organization and his fanbase.

This news will give Doc Rivers the green light to let Tucker open games alongside Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris.

From left to right: Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, James Harden, P.J. Tucker
“I’m doing great,” he said. “Time-wise, it made sense to go ahead and get it knocked out. It’s been six weeks, and I’m fully cleared and back on the court doing everything. So I’m excited.”

The Sixers will have no trouble putting points on the board this year, so Tucker’s role in the lineup will lean into what he does best: provoking opponents and defending the perimeter.
Joel Embiid’s excitement for the addition is clear.

“You look at someone like P.J. Tucker — great player — but it’s not about him knocking down shots,” said Embiid. “It’s about what he does, whether it’s on the defensive end or rebounding the ball. You look at, obviously, defensively; he plays with so much energy, 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.”

That toughness from Tucker not only fits well with the culture the Sixers have been building over the past few years but will be crucial in big spots against big-bodied and hard-nosed opponents in the eastern conference. Players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, or the painfully familiar Jimmy Butler, who led the Miami Heat in eliminating Philadelphia from the playoffs last season.

The pressure should be off for Embiid to stretch himself thin on the defensive end, allowing him to focus on defending the point and let Tucker do the dirty work against the guards and wings.

Expect Tucker to close out as many games as he starts for the Sixers.