Sixers Expected to Keep Tabs on Veteran ‘Tough Guy’

P.J. Tucker

Getty Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers shoots the ball against P.J. Tucker of the Miami Heat.

After falling short to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Philadelphia 76ers are going back to the drawing board as they look to build a contender. With the team’s core intact, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey can focus on a supporting cast.

And that could mean reuniting with Heat veteran P.J. Tucker, an Eastern Conference executive told Heavy’s Sean Deveney. Morey signed Tucker in 2017 when he general manager of the Houston Rockets.

“I think the Sixers will be interested in what P.J. Tucker does in Miami,” the exec told Deveney. “He has a player option and they can only give him the taxpayer’s midlevel, but if he decides he wants out of Miami, he has a relationship with [Daryl] Morey and I think he would be intrigued playing with [Joel] Embiid. He is a guy to watch there.”

Tucker, 37, appeared in 71 games for the Heat this season, averaging 7.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. He played just over three seasons with Sixers star James Harden when Harden was with the Rockets, signed there by Morey in 2012.

Tucker has a player option for 2022-23 worth $7.35 million. If he declines the option, he would become a free agent on August 6.

Embiid Feels Sixers Need Players Like Tucker

After Miami eliminated Philadelphia in Game 6 of semifinals, Sixers center Joel Embiid called out the team for lacking and mental and physical toughness. When he said the team needs “tough guys,” he even mentioned Tucker by name.

“You look at a guy like P.J. Tucker, a great player. But it’s not about him knocking down shots. It’s about what he does on the defensive end, rebounding the ball,” Embiid told reporters on May 12. “Since I’ve been here, I’d be lying if I said we had those types of guys. Nothing against what we have, it’s just the truth. We never have PJ Tucker, that’s really what I’m trying to say.”

Though just a role player, Tucker still leaves an impact on the floor. It is no coincidence he was a starter on teams that made the finals (the Milwaukee Bucks in 2020-21) and conference finals in back-to-back seasons. When it comes to the little stuff Tucker does, Embiid is right that the Sixers are missing that kind of player.

Tucker’s Fit on the Sixers

From a fit perspective, Tucker would be a good addition. For starters, he is a knockdown shooter from beyond the arc, especially in the corners. Tucker connected on a career-high 41.5% of his threes this season on just under three attempts per game. His effectiveness from beyond the arc would make him an ideal fit alongside Embiid and James Harden as a kick-out option that opposing defenses would have to account for.

Another element Tucker can bring to the Sixers is lineup flexibility. Along with being able to slide into a forward spot, he can also be used as a small-ball five. This could allow Doc Rivers to deploy some souped-up smaller lineups with Tucker and Paul Reed in the frontcourt.

Despite getting up there in age, Tucker has proved he still has something to give an NBA team. If he does decide to hit the open market, the Sixers would be foolish not to do their due diligence given their connections.

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