One day after Miami Heat forward P.J. Tucker officially opted out of the second year of his contract, a new report from The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey revealed the Sixers are willing to big money to obtain the veteran stalwart.
Pompey wrote on Tuesday, June 1 that after the 37-year-old opted out of his $7.4 million player option for the 2022-23 season with the Miami Heat, “Multiple sources have the Sixers intending to offer him a three-year, $30 million contract. Time will tell what will happen. But a source added that there’s mutual interest between Tucker, 37, and the Sixers.”
The latest Heat news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Heat newsletter here!
“Things could change before the start of free agency at 6 p.m. on June 30,” Pompey continued, “but league executives believe there’s a good chance Tucker will become a Sixer. 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.”
Pompey reported that in order to make space, “Sources said the Sixers are looking to make a three-team trade that could involve Matisse Thybulle and the No. 23 pick.”
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).
Earlier this month, Tucker hinted that he wanted more than to settle for his current contract. “It’s like, ‘Am I a mid-level guy?’” Tucker told the Sun-Sentinel on Thursday, June 2, which according to reporter Ira Winderman, was “in a tone that made it clear he believed he was not.”
Tucker said of his $7.4 million player option for next season, “It’s a label that tells a guy what you think he is worth.”
Joel Embiid Specifically Said the Sixers Need a Player Like Tucker
After the Heat knocked the Sixers out of the playoffs, MVP candidate Joel Embiid specifically mentioned how Tucker was someone he wanted as a teammate.
“You look at someone like P.J. Tucker. Great player, but it’s not about him knocking down shots,” Embiis said on May 13, per NBC Sports. “It’s about what he does, whether it’s on the defensive end or rebounding the ball.”
“[Tucker] believes that no one can beat him. And he’s tough. He’s just physical, and he’s tough. And they have a few of those guys… And since I’ve been here, I’d be lying if I said that we’ve had those types of guys. Nothing against what we have, it’s just the truth. We never had P.J. Tucker. That’s really what I’m trying to say. So, I think physicality – especially once you get to the playoffs or the later rounds – you need that. You need those guys that are really tough.”
In addition to receiving strong accolades from Embiid, Tucker has a relationship with Sixers star James Harden, as the two were teammates during their tenure with the Houston Rockets.
Pat Riley Made It Clear He Wants to Keep Tucker in Miami
Few players have instantly gelled with the Heat like Tucker. Team president Pat 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.”
If Riley truly wants to keep Tucker, he’ll need to figure out a path in which the 37-year-old veteran gets a pay raise.
There’s still a very strong chance Tucker remains 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. Based on the forward’s Instagram Story posts on Monday, in which he prepares to put up a present from Robinson in his Heat locker, it seems the sneaker-fiend is already planning to stay in Miami.
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.
Hot Hot Hoops reporter Matt Hanifan suggested the Heat “could use less than the taxpayer’s portion (~$6.4M) of its non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception (~$10.3M) to re-sign Tucker and avoid the hard-cap. At the risk of hard-capping itself — meaning it could not exceed the ~$156 million tax apron under any circumstance — the Heat could use the bi-annual exception ($4.0M) to sign him for up to two seasons.”