After Miami Heat forward P.J. Tucker officially opted out of the second year of his contract, the 37-year-old immediately became one of the hottest targets in free agency.
Yahoo! Sports reporter Chris Haynes tweeted on Wednesday, June 22, “Tucker is expected to have interest from multiple contending teams willing to offer the full midlevel exception once free-agency commences, league sources tell @YahooSports.”
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In the two days since Tucker opted out of his $7.4 million player option for the 2022-23 season with the Heat, three Eastern Conference Teams are reportedly looking to snag defensive stud out of Miami.
After The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reported on Tuesday night that “multiple sources have the Sixers intending to offer him a three-year, $30 million contract,” two other teams have emerged as suitors.
New York Daily News reporter Kristian Winfield revealed on Wednesday that the Brooklyn Nets have “tangible interest” in Tucker. “He is great friends – ‘brothers,’ in his words – with Nets star Kevin Durant, and adding a player of Tucker’s ilk would provide a much-needed toughness and frontcourt floor spacing to a Nets team lacking both.”
The Nets, however, can’t pay Tucker as much as the Sixers, ” and would likely have to take a pay cut to join the Nets,” Winfield noted. “Brooklyn only has its taxpayer mid-level exception which maxes out at a three-year deal worth about $20M. If Tucker returns to the Heat, he could command a raise on his previous salary, which was a two-year deal worth $14.4M.”
Joining the Nets over staying in Miami would be a decision over which team he thinks has a better shot at winning the NBA Championship, Winfield surmised. “Playing with his good friend, Durant, however, would be the draw in Brooklyn, as would joining a team positioned as a perennial contender knocking on the door of an NBA championship with every year they surround Durant with the requisite level of star power needed to compete for a title.”
The Atlanta Hawks Intend to Make an Offer to Tucker
The third team planning to make a run at Tucker, per Winfield, is the Atlanta Hawks. “The Nets aren’t the only contender with interest in Tucker’s services,” Winfield added. “Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks are also expected to make a run at Tucker’s services, another source told The News.”
While Tucker’s age is obviously a major concern, as he will turn 38 before the playoffs start next season, he was one of the most reliable players for the Heat this season. The 6-foot-5 defensive anchor who famously refuses to take veteran rest days, appeared in 70 regular-season games (starting 71 of them).
During the regular season, Tucker averaged 7.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 0.8 steals per game, while shooting 48.4% from the field and 41.5% from beyond the arc.
There’s Still a Strong Chance Tucker Remains in Miami
Few players have instantly clicked with Heat Culture like Tucker, and both team president Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra have made it abundantly clear that they would love for him to remain in Miami.
Riley called Tucker “a cornerstone,” during his end-of-the-season press conference on June 6, and said, “I’d love to have Tuck back next year. He’s part of our core… He’s special.”
There’s still a very strong chance Tucker does remain in Miami, and the Heat should be able to find a way to offer him a salary up to $8.5 million for the 2022 NBA season.
Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang suggested that the Heat will struggle to offer the full MLE if they are looking to retain forward Cab Martin, who will become a restricted free agent this summer. Chiang tweeted, tweeted, “Heat could also offer $10.3 million non-taxpayer midlevel exception to re-sign P.J. Tucker, but that would hard cap Miami at the apron. Also, would eliminate an important resource that could be used to bring back Caleb Martin.”
Chiang also noted, that like the heat, any top team will struggle to pay Tucker above the MLE. He tweeted, “Most contending teams, if not all of them, are over the cap and only have the mid-level exception to offer P.J. Tucker. And, of course, contenders want Tucker.”
Pompey even noted, “Right now, the Sixers don’t have the cap space available to sign him for $10 million per season. As a result, they would have to clear space in order to fit in his salary… Sources said the Sixers are looking to make a three-team trade that could involve Matisse Thybulle and the No. 23 pick.”
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