Last season, the Philadelphia 76ers emerged as a bona fide championship contender. Thanks to the efforts of Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid, perennial All-Star James Harden, and budding star Tyrese Maxey, the team rose through the ranks and should continue to be a top threat next season despite the current instability brought by player movement threats.
That being said, PJ Tucker was also a big reason behind Philly’s jump last season. Brought in as a free agent after a one-year stint in Miami, the veteran forward was quickly slotted in as the starting power forward and spearheaded the defense in his own capacity. Despite posting meager numbers, his presence was definitely felt by the team across the board.
However, will his ceaseless impact on defense, veteran toughness, and mental fortitude be enough for him to continue opening games for the Sixers next season?
Should PJ Tucker still start for the Philadelphia 76ers next season?
Tucker started in all 75 regular season games for Philadelphia last season, posting 3.5 points and 3.9 rebounds in 25.6 minutes per outing. Of course, the burly forward is definitely one player you gloss over the numbers with, but there are definitely some arguments to bring against him still soaking up such robust court time.
Even at age 38, Tucker is an iron man and one of the league’s best in terms of availability so Father Time definitely won’t jettison him out of the discussion in that regard. However, his ability to stay in front of guys on the move is slowing down a tad, and that’s a small blemish that can be exploited in switch-heavy defensive configurations by speedy guards when Tucker latches onto them.
Also, his rebounding presence has dramatically decreased. The bulk of that can be attributed to and masked by Embiid dominating the glass, but it becomes a bit of a liability when he defends post-ups, which happens quite frequently when offenses try to bring Embiid away from the paint through switches.
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On offense, Tucker has become pretty negligible. First off, he doesn’t take a lot of shots, if at all. Among all qualified players last season, Tucker attempted the least number of shots per 36 minutes, clocking in at 245th, the worst in the league. The gap between him and the one above him (Mitchell Robinson) is as big as the difference between the latter and the 224th-ranked player (Grant Williams).
Even when he takes the vastly open shots, he’s only knocking them down at a 42.7 percent rate. His 39.3 percent clip from three-point range offers some consolation, but not so much when considering the puny volume. He cannot be fully blamed for this after entering a heliocentric Sixers offense after a considerable offensive standing in the Heat’s egalitarian offense, but chalking him up to hoist more shots is far from ideal at this stage of his career. And Nick Nurse is definitely smart enough to know just that.
Nevertheless, even when highlighting his virtually non-existent offensive presence, Tucker’s veteran presence and defense are still more than enough for him to lock up a meaningful rotation spot. But should that spot be in the opening group is a question that should be answered openly.
The 76ers had a lot of success lot season operating with more firepower in the perimeter by slotting in De’Anthony Melton instead of him in some close games. That should be a set-up which the coaching staff could look to trot out more with Tobias Harris sliding into the 4. Alternatively, Philly can go unconventional and try to unlock Paul Reed as a power forward, giving them a younger option who can match Tucker on the defensive end at his best.
The Philadelphia 76ers definitely have a lot of options lineup-wise, and while PJ Tucker still belongs in the equation, him being supplanted eventually is a fast-rising matter of when, not if.