Sixers Send Strong Message on New Signing: ‘All-Star’

PJ Tucker, Philadelphia 76ers

Getty P.J. Tucker #17 formerly of the Miami Heat.

If the Philadelphia 76ers have lacked one thing over the last few seasons, it’s been a “dog mentality.” It’s one of the reasons Sixers star Joel Embiid explained the team needed an “enforcer” next season.

And GM Daryl Morey wasted no time fixing that problem this summer. Last week, he signed former Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell to play backup center for the Sixers. Harrell’s swagger and attitude are precisely what the team needs an injection of.

But that’s just the bench unit. Into the starting five, Morey added PJ Tucker, another “dog” type whose pesky defense and penchant for corner threes have kept him in the league for what feels like ever. Tucker will no doubt be given challenging defensive assignments this season, but none he’s unfamiliar with; last season, he was called on to do the same against the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum while he was with the Miami Heat.

But Tucker also comes with a catch: he’s entering his age-37 season in the league. He’s been around the block and his legs carry significant miles. But Morey went out of his way to squash any fears over a Tucker regression this season.

“P.J. Tucker, if you look at players similar to him, (he) should’ve been out of the league four years ago,” Morey said on an episode of The Take Off with John Clark on September 13. “Almost no one who plays the type of game he plays is still playing at 37. So we’re already in this space of nobody knows. We’re obviously trying to win now. I’m not as worried about 40. I think I would never bet against P.J. Tucker. Anyone who’s ever bet against him has been wrong, and he keeps winning. So I don’t know what he’s going to be at 40. P.J., he knows he’s going to be great at 40; I know he believes it. I think everyone else doesn’t know, but we feel good.”

Morey’s signings do indeed denote a focus on winning now. In addition to Tucker, he traded for James Harden last winter, adding another aging star. But Morey doubled down on his belief in Tucker, heaping praise onto the forward in the interview.

Morey: Tucker Will ‘Bring Energy’ if Nothing Else

Morey isn’t naive, though. He knows that any day Tucker could suddenly fall prey to Father Time. But even still, Morey isn’t worried about Tucker’s potential contribution to the Sixers, believing he can still help out the team in other ways.

“Even if maybe his body betrays him a little bit going forward, I still know he’s going to bring energy and he’s going to be an unbelievable guy to have on a roster. All of that said, he’s already in this place where nobody knows the next steps. Normally, you can look at players who play like him at 32, how will they look at 34? You can look at those things. There’s 100, 200 players like that. There’s literally a data set of one person who looks like P.J. Tucker that’s still helping teams win championships at age 36, 37. Almost all of them are these former multi-time All-Stars — to make it to that age. And frankly, P.J. Tucker is an All-Star at his role. Maybe in 50 years guys like him are All-Stars because people recognize the contribution they make,” Morey said.

Let’s be clear here. Morey isn’t saying Tucker is an All-Star on the level of Joel Embiid and Kevin Durant. Rather, Morey is arguing that Tucker is an All-Star in his role, which is as a tenacious defender and occasional source of offense.

And that’s exactly what the Sixers need. The team is stacked with All-Stars at the top: Embiid, Harden, and even Tyrese Maxey, who is pegged to make his first All-Star team next season. But improving down the roster was a must heading into the summer. Tucker accomplishes that goal.

Morey Still Believes in Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey

Speaking of those players at the top, Morey had a bit to say about the Sixers’ stars.

“[Maxey is] key to our season,” Morey said. “Obviously the new players on the team I think are two-way players and are going to set the stage, but winning the title really comes down to your best players.”

Yes, the new roster additions are nice and should shore up a bench that was 27th in assists and 28th in scoring last season. But ultimately, when it comes down to the playoffs, the Sixers will be relying on Embiid, Harden, and Maxey to win the day. It’s a trio that should excite fans heading into a make-or-break season.

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