P.J. Tucker emerging as important Sixers leader

P.J. Tucker, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
P.J. Tucker, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

The Sixers signed 37-year-old P.J. Tucker to a three-year, $33 million contract over the summer. Philadelphia acquired Tucker to fill out the starting five with defensive versatility and perimeter shooting, but that wasn’t the only motivating factor. He also provides the Sixers with toughness and leadership skills that were previously lacking.

So far, it appears to be paying off. Tucker has been the talk of the town through two days of training camp. Here’s what Doc Rivers had to say about the veteran wing:

"“PJ stands out. Especially, defensively. When he’s on the floor, when he’s off the floor, it is night and day and that’s why we’re challenging guys because PJ’s not playing 48 minutes. Not just his defense. Just his talking and his knowledge. He came through the [Pat] Riley system. I came through the Riley system, so for him, defensively, it’s very easy to pick up everything. We need more of that from more people.” (via Ky Carlin/SixersWire)"

P.J. Tucker’s leadership could drastically improve the Sixers

The Sixers’ lack of backbone was a central theme of last season. They were frontrunners. At the slightest sign of adversity, the Sixers would transform from offensive world-beaters to soft, unserious pretenders. It starts in the locker room, but it also translates to the court: Philly didn’t have enough vocal leadership.

Joel Embiid is a magnificent basketball player, but he is notoriously quiet and reserved off the court. Tobias Harris has made efforts to grow team chemistry in the past, but he’s no drill sergeant. Tyrese Maxey was in his second NBA season. James Harden arrived at midseason, and while he’s a brilliant individual talent, he has never been the martial type either.

Enter Tucker. Tucker is willing to call guys out, he’s willing to lead by example, and he’s willing to communicate on the floor. The Sixers have always felt somewhat quiet and reserved on the court: that’s not how real contenders operate. You need players to yell out plays, to get genuinely fired up. Tucker will provide that, and hopefully the rest of the team follows suit.

It’s clear that P.J. Tucker‘s leadership, both in the locker room and in the game, will be central to Philadelphia’s season. While his on-court abilities may be trailing off in the latter years of his career, Tucker’s corporate knowledge and competitive spirit are more than enough to earn him major playing time.

Factor in other positive signs of growth in the locker room — James Harden organizing team get-togethers over the summer, De’Anthony Melton and Danuel House bringing more toughness, Tyrese Maxey vowing to “lead by example” — and the Sixers feel like a much different team entering the 2022-23 season.

Next. 15 players who defined 'The Process'. dark