The Philadelphia 76ers were aware that P.J. Tucker was a player whose impact goes beyond the box score when they made him the prized addition of the offseason. However, this has been put to the test in recent games with Tucker going scoreless in his last three games despite being on the court for 95 total minutes. He became just the third person to go scoreless in three consecutive games while playing 29+ minutes per game. Tucker also is on pace to average the fewest field-goal attempts per game of any player with 28+ minutes per game at 3.1 per game.
Tucker’s Offensive Disinterest
The loss of James Harden has negatively impacted every Sixers player, but Tucker has been especially impacted by this. His best weapon offensively is shooting corner three-pointers which have become a staple of his game throughout his career. Tucker is still shooting 44.0% on three-pointers thus far this season while attempting 1.6 per game. All 25 three-point attempts that he has launched this year have come from the corner.
With no true playmaker on the court for the Sixers, it becomes difficult for Tucker to find his shot. Both Harden and Tyrese Maxey are set to miss the next few weeks with their respective foot and ankle injuries. While Joel Embiid has improved as a passer and is averaging seven assists across the past two games, neither Shake Milton nor De’Anthony Melton are natural playmakers at the Sixers’ guard positions.
Tucker’s Underrated Impact
Despite the seeming lack of production in the box score, Tucker has been crucial to the Sixers’ success. The former NBA champ served as the primary defender for Giannis Antetokounmpo during the Sixers’ matchup with the Bucks and played a valuable role in shutting down the superstar. Doc Rivers showered him with praise to the media and in front of the team.
When speaking to the media Rivers put it, “It’s funny, if someone didn’t watch this game, they’re going to look at the box score and they’re going to see PJ Tucker went 0-for-1, had four rebounds, two assists and he may have been our most important player on the floor tonight. I said that to our guys and everybody started clapping because they saw it. It’s a great example of how you help your team sometimes and it doesn’t have to be scoring,” per Ky Carlin of SixersWire.
Despite being 37-year-old and presumably past the prime of his career, Tucker has been tasked with a difficult defensive load to start the season. He has been asked to guard the opponent’s best player on a nightly basis in addition to serving as the small-ball center for several lineups. Already this season he has held his own in matchups with players like Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, Kristaps Porzingis, and more.
While it would be preferred if Tucker could add more on the offensive end, this was not the role he was brought in for. For the most part, he has been the player he has always been thus far with the Sixers. Given the contract and hype over the signing, there may have been excessive expectations for the veteran. His leadership, toughness, and versatility have been valuable to the Sixers and this will prove to be more valuable as the season progresses and the postseason begins. It would be beneficial if he can add a little more on the offensive end, but it is far from time to be concerned about Tucker this season.