NBA Playoffs: 3 X-Factor Sixers that could surprise us, 2 that could fall flat

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers /

PJ Tucker

The other Sixers’ player who has the opportunity to fall flat this postseason is PJ Tucker. Tucker was an off-season acquisition that was lauded as an overwhelming success for Daryl Morey this off-season. Tucker, who is 38 years old, is still a productive NBA player who leads with effort and intensity on the floor. He was a key starter for the Milwaukee Bucks in their 2021 title run and played a very similar role for the Miami Heat the following season when they defeated the Sixers in the 2021-22 NBA playoffs.

No doubt, the Sixers were expecting the same type of reliable starter that Tucker was in Milwaukee and Miami. Thus far, Tucker has relatively lived up to that expectation and will be in the Sixers’ starting playoff lineup next week. PJ has started every game this season that he has been available to but is only averaging 3.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 0.8 assists in 25+ minutes of playing time per game.

For any other player in the league, there would be wild criticism over why a player with those stats is seeing that much time on the court. The difference is Tucker’s contributions rarely show up on the stat sheet.

Last week Tucker registered the most minutes in a ‘cardio game’ since 2017.

A ‘cardio game” is a game where a player records zero stats across the board. Tucker played 23 minutes versus the Denver Nuggets and had 0 points, 0 assists, 0 rebounds, 0 blocks, and 0 steals.

When Tucker needs to step up though, he is cool and calm under pressure. He scored 9 of his 11 points against the Boston Celtics at the end of the fourth quarter by knocking down three big-time three-pointers in the game’s moments to help seal a Sixers’ win. The question is, at 38, will the long season take a toll on him, and his performance dip in the playoffs this year?

That is what I am most concerned about and why I included Tucker here as a potential player to fall flat. No one can outrun Father Time, except maybe LeBron James and an 82-game regular season is a grind for even the youngest, most in-shape players. I hope to be proven wrong but keep an eye on Tucker’s fatigue this postseason.