Few players have instantly gelled with the Miami Heat like P.J. Tucker, so after weeks of rumored reports, when The Athletic’s Shams Charania tweeted that the veteran forward was officially leaving for the Philadelphia 76ers, fans and analysts were heartbroken.
Charania tweeted, “Free agent PJ Tucker is finalizing a three-year, $33.2 million fully guaranteed deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, his agent Andre Buck (@andrebuck14) told @TheAthletic.”
The latest Heat news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Heat newsletter here!
After Tucker opted out of his $7.4 million player option for the 2022-23 season, the 37-year-old defensive stud immediately became one of the hottest free agents on the market. However, Heat President Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra have made it abundantly clear that they want to keep Tucker in Miami.
Heat captain Udonis Haslem, and superstar Jimmy Butler both of went out of their way to praise Tucker throughout the season, and the news of his exit will hit hard for Heat Nation.
Hot Hot Hoops reporter Naveen Ganglani tweeted, “One of the greatest 1-year flings in Miami Heat history. The amount of respect & admiration Heat fans built for PJ Tucker in such a short amount of time was quite incredible, and for good reason – he was essential to their success. Go thrive, PJ.”
Some Heat fans found reprieve after seeing the price tag the Sixers offered. One man tweeted, “We wish him the best of luck but we ain’t paying him that much,” while another Heat fan wrote, “Hurts to see him go but 33M for a 37 year old is too much.”
Money Was the Ultimate Factor in Tucker’s Decision
While Tucker’s preference was to re-sign with the Heat, more money and a multi-year deal were his main priority, which is not unusual for a player turning 38 before the playoffs start next season.
NBA Insider Marc Stein reported in his newsletter on Sunday, June 26 that Tucker landing with the Sixers was the most likely scenario to happen. “Numerous rival teams, meanwhile, say with even more conviction now than they did last week… that they expect P.J. Tucker to land in Philadelphia on a three-year, $30 million deal in free agency.”
“If Pat Riley’s Heat can find a way now to re-sign Tucker, they will definitely surprise some people,” Stein noted. “It seems increasingly safe, then, to at least pencil in a Harden/Tucker reunion into a Sixers offseason that already features the draft-day acquisition of De’Anthony Melton from Memphis.
As for the Heat’s final offer, Miami Herald’s Anthony Chiang reported on Wednesday, June 30 that the “front office has drawn a line” as to how far they’ll go to keep Tucker:
According to multiple sources close to the situation, the Heat is willing to offer Tucker a fully guaranteed contract for the maximum-allowable three years using the non-Bird exception. The deal would include a starting salary of $8.4 million and be worth about $26.5 million through three seasons. But the Heat is not currently willing to use the $10.5 million non-taxpayer midlevel exception to re-sign Tucker, according to sources, which would allow Miami to offer him a three-year contract worth about $33 million.
James Harden Restructuring His Contract Paved the Way for Tucker in Philadelphia
Sixers Wire reporter Ky Carlin tweeted on Wednesday, “If Philly is telling teams they’ll have the bi-annual exception as well in free agency, then it sounds like James Harden will definitely opt out and restructure his contract. That clears the way for P.J. Tucker.”
A few hours later, Carlin’s assumption became a reality. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted, “6ers star James Harden has declined his $47.3M option and become a free agent. He keeps real the possibility of negotiating a new deal that would deliver the Sixers roster-building flexibility in free agency – including use of the full $10.5M exception.”