Bulls Targeting Veteran ‘Tough Guy’ in NBA Free Agency, Exec Says

P.J. Tucker is a Bulls free-agency target.

Getty P.J. Tucker is a Bulls free-agency target.

One thing the Chicago Bulls were missing over the course of last NBA season was the veteran tough-guy presence of forward Thad Young, who had been an important presence in bringing along the young players on the team’s roster. Even as the team brought in veterans like Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso, it was clear that a forceful locker room leader was a missing piece for the team.

With news, relatively unsurprising, that Miami forward P.J. Tucker would exercise his player option and become an unrestricted free agent, the Bulls’ eyes swung immediately to South Beach. Tucker would help the Bulls bolster their frontcourt depth and would also add an element of toughness the team could use.

Tucker helped the Milwaukee Bucks to the 2021 NBA championship.

“He is ready-made for that roster, he is a tough guy and his attitude is contagious,” one Eastern Conference executive told Heavy.com. “He can start at power forward and take pressure off Patrick Williams. He can fill in as a small-ball center. He is a knock-down shooter in the corners—it’s all the things they’re looking for. He is 37 and it is pretty incredible, there is going to be a line of teams looking to give him deals into his 40s. The Bulls have their mid-level available, so they can be in that mix.”

Heat Aiming to Keep Tucker in Miami

One prominent source of competition will be the team for which Tucker played last year, the Miami Heat. He averaged 7.6 points and 5.5 rebounds for the Heat, shooting 41.5% from the 3-point line, and the Heat were 2.1 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the floor, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

The Heat can’t offer as much as other teams, though, with their first year capped at $8.4 million because of league rules. Still, team president Pat Riley can be very persuasive and called Tucker a “cornerstone” player.

Erik Spoelstra, at his year-end press conference, was effusive in his praise of Tucker:

He was so important all across the board. That competitive spirit, his competitive will, his consistent toughness that you can just count on every single day. And he has a way of communicating that and inspiring everybody in the locker room that is so genuine. If you’re just observing it from the outside, you’re like: ‘Wow, that’s intense.’ But to everybody in the locker room, it’s a really special genuine feeling when you have somebody that is that committed to winning and helping other guys. “He’s so unselfish as a player, always taking on the biggest challenges. Defensively, he’ll do all the little things, the dirty work, the tough things and never complain about it. He never complains or talks about his shots. He’s just completely selfless.

Bulls Pick 18th in the NBA Draft

Of course, before Tucker’s decision comes, the Bulls have other business to attend. The team has the No. 18 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft and has been open to trading it for veteran help. The Bulls have also had frequent discussions on guard Coby White, who is extension eligible as he heads into his fourth NBA season.

The Bulls got White with the No. 7 pick in the 2019 NBA draft, and he averaged 12.7 points on 43.5% shooting from the field.

Free agency in the NBA opens June 30.

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