P.J. Tucker set to make NBA comeback with Phoenix Suns

P.J. Tucker hopes to finally live his NBA dream with the Phoenix Suns.

P.J. Tucker hopes to finally live his NBA dream with the Phoenix Suns.

After playing just 17 games for Toronto during the 2006-07 season before bouncing around Europe these past five seasons, it would have been easy for P.J. Tucker to think his shot at NBA glory had come and gone.

Yet with a glaring need for a small forward reserve, the Suns have decided to give Tucker one more crack at his NBA dream, according to The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro.

Tucker, 27, will sign a two-year deal with the Suns with partial guarantees in the first year that could net him the second-year player minimum of $762,195 if he sticks with Phoenix all season.

“It’s been a long, grueling journey, but it’s fulfilling,” Tucker told Coro. “I was so resentful in Toronto because I wasn’t playing much. I was throwing fits. I was so young-minded. I didn’t get the big picture or that it’s a business. You have to understand your role on a team. You see kids come after you and do the same thing. So many never play and say they got screwed by the GM or coach. When you can be real with yourself and understand why, that’s really when it comes to life.”

Tucker is a 6-foot-6, 224-pound dirt worker who can defend multiple positions and add an element of toughness to the Suns. His offensive game has developed as well, as he earned MVP honors in this year’s German League Finals.

The former Longhorn averaged 5.8 points and 6.2 rebounds for the Summer Suns, who outscored the opposition by 8.6 points per 100 possessions with Tucker on the floor.

“P.J. is a guy after my own heart,” Summer Suns coach Dan Majerle told Suns.com. “He’s just tough as nails, does whatever you ask and plays extremely hard.”

As the de facto last man on the roster, it’s unlikely Tucker will have much of a role, if he even makes the team.

However, his gritty style could allow him to steal some small forward minutes eventually, especially if he can prove to be a plus defender at the NBA level. I expect Jared Dudley, Michael Beasley and Shannon Brown to share most of the minutes at the two and the three (with potentially some two point guard lineups with Dragic and Marshall), but small forward is undeniably a spot where the Suns lack depth if Tucker is their final wing pickup of the offseason.

An injury could force Tucker into action, but it’s more likely he will rack up the DNP-CDs and not even be active more often than not.

Tucker was selected No. 35 overall by the Raptors back in 2006 at which time DraftExpress thought Bonzi Wells was his best case scenario and Andre Emmett his worst case. Here are a few snippets of his DX profile:

If you can get past the fact that he is at least 2-3 inches undersized, Tucker has very good physical attributes. Unlike most players, though, he uses his to the fullest extent at all times. Tucker has an NBA ready frame and a super-hero’s build, with very soft and strong hands, great upper and lower body strength, and a superb wingspan. He has a powerful first step and very solid ability to get off the ground and finish strong at the basket.

Tucker is essentially the prototype for what most coaches look for in a player. He is fundamentally sound, tough as nails, and incredibly hard-working; always giving everything he has out on the floor, showing superb confidence in himself, but usually playing strictly up to his strengths.

Defensively, Tucker is again tough as nails, fundamentally strong and absolutely tenacious due to his outstanding motor. He’s not the most experienced perimeter defender, but will usually give his matchup hell regardless just because of the way he plays. As a rebounder is where he truly shines, going after every ball as if it was his last, and displaying superb timing and hands.

In terms of intangibles, for what GMs look for in a basketball player, Tucker’s are superb. He has a tireless work ethic and a winner’s mentality, which is what makes it nearly so hard to write him off despite his atypical profile.

Tucker’s size has to be considered the main [weakness]. If he was just 2-3 inches taller, he’d be a sure-fire top-20 pick as it would be much easier to see him becoming a real power small forward. At 6-5, he is shorter than most NBA shooting guards, but is more bit stuck between the 3 and the 4 spots when talking about his true position skill-wise. Defensively is where the biggest concerns come out, as it’s unclear whether he has the experience or lateral quickness to defend the perimeter.

If Tucker were an incredibly freakish athlete he would likely make up this to a certain extent, but he really isn’t out of this world in this regard, even though he is certainly no slouch. His overall quickness and first step are not what you’d expect out of an NBA shooting guard, and he might need to transform his body into more of a wing’s build than a burly college forward.

Tucker is most likely a small forward in the NBA, but doesn’t have the same type of range on his jump-shot that most small forwards do. He never really attempted to shoot from behind the collegiate 3-point line, let alone the NBA 3-point line, not with his feet set and certainly not off the dribble.

If Tucker sticks it would be a great story of perseverance for a player who never lost sight of his ultimate NBA dream.

However, it’s unlikely that such a player will provide much more than minimum utility for the Suns this season, and if one becomes available the team would be wise to consider adding a veteran defensive small forward (too bad a certain former Sun is in LA at this point).

Still, it soon became obvious that if a member of the Summer Suns was going to make the team it would be a physical wing, and Tucker certainly fits the bill on that count.

Hill thanks fans in Republic ad

Grant Hill took out a full-page ad in Sunday’s Arizona Republic thanking Phoenix’s fans for their support before he makes his way to LA:

Dear Suns Fans,

I want to thank you for your incredible loyalty, encouragement, and friendship during the past five years. It has been an honor and privilege to play in Phoenix and serve this beautiful and passionate community as a member of the Suns. The opportunity to be part of such a great organization and city has been tremendous.

My family and I truly appreciate your genuine support over the years and we thank you for so many wonderful memories.

Grant Hill #33

Tags: P.j Tucker

  • Comebackkid

    Is this guy good? Is he a sf?

  • Animan

    It was either him or Marcus Landry. I’m quite content with this deal, he’ll be a good back-up for Beasley. Now we have enough cap space to sign Rolo as well as perhaps even Redd or some other FA. Suns are getting in the playoffs for sure.

  • sturmtank

    get redd!!!!

  • shazam


  • Comebackkid

    I like redd too!

  • nashty


  • Dominik

    Tucker played SF/PF for Bamberg last season.
    I saw several of those games and he did a great job.
    His game is physical, he scores in the paint, from mid- and long-range, his FTs are solid. He fights for every ball, every rebound.
    He was outstanding during the playoffs.

    Sure, he won’t be playing the same role on the Suns roster, but I’m sure he’s able to fill the spot he’ll be given.

  • Kenny

    Sign Redd. Last year he looked like he drew mismatches all the time. I really like how he can back down his man in the post. Oh yea, and the man can stroke it, too..

  • http://none.com Russell

    Animan, Suns are getting in the playoffs for sure? Why cos we signed PJ Tucker? C’mon now. We didn’t make any movement by this addition. Not saying we have no chance at the playoffs but, making it for sure is not a bet I would make. Not unless we make a trade for a big name. We have the players and the assets to do it.

  • Robert M

    I know there is the whole salary thing, but this has to be a down grade from Childress, right?

  • Tim from British Columbia

    Please sign Redd!!!! He is a hardworker too who showed great promise last season.

  • Ty-Sun

    A downgrade from Childress? No way of telling at the moment but Childress just really never fit in or made much of a difference in games. Tucker might wind up sitting at the end of the bench this season too but I do like Majerle’s description of him as “tough as nails”. That alone could get him more court time than Childress got. Adding more toughness to this team isn’t a bad thing.

  • Scott

    Maybe I don’t have the most sophisticated basketball eye, but I couldn’t tell that Tucker stood out on the Summer League team.

    On the other hand, I did notice that SG Lighty shut down eventual SL MVP Josh Selby.

    Here’s a quote from Coro’s article praising Tucker:

    Former Suns forward Casey Jacobsen has starred for the past six seasons in Germany, where he saw American players come and go because they could not adjust to veteran teams.

    “Of all my teammates that I’ve had, P.J. seamlessly integrated himself into the lineup and did so by doing all the little things and then eventually became the star of the team,” said Jacobsen, who was a Brose Baskets Bamberg road roommate with Tucker. “Ten games into the season, it was clear that P.J. was our best player. He came to play every game or practice. The thing that I like most about him is he doesn’t require you to run plays for him. He doesn’t yell, ‘Get me the ball.’ He just found a way to be efficient and productive. Those are the kind of teammates that don’t come along very often. What P.J. can do and the attitude he has is abnormal.”

    Tucker has known Suns General Manager Lance Blanks, a fellow Texas Longhorn, for several years and heard of Suns Director of Player Personnel John Treloar’s interest over the past year. He played on the Suns’ summer-league team, where he averaged 5.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in 21.6 minutes per game and showed his vocal, competitive side.

    Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/sports/suns/articles/2012/07/23/20120723pj-tucker-returns-nba-phoenix-suns-after-long-wait.html#ixzz21YMR6oV6

  • bk

    He should get the minutes from Hakim Warrick.

  • steve

    A cheap vet with a good motor, hard work ethic, and a grasp on his role as a bench-warmer? Sounds like a guy who is going to be good to have around. If he can give a handful of hard minutes every game and make one or two good hustle plays, he’ll have done his job. I think where he’ll be most effective is in practice. Having a guy like this to work with every day will challenge those who are actually on the floor.

  • Greg

    Can’t hurt to have guys like this around. Type of guys you want at the end of your bench. I dont know why Brian Cardinal and Brian Scalabrine arent here yet….but whatever.

  • http://none.com Russell

    Brian Scalabrine eh ? Sounds like you want the best player in basketball!

  • Zack B.

    I wanted to see the fan reactions on this. I like the sound of him, a defender is what we need. However, why sign him when we can get T-Will for just a mil or two more??? We can still sign T-Will too though, so don’t worry yet. But yeah for the price, it’s not a bad pickup. Robin Lopez will not be staying with us I believe. I really want T-Will!

  • ASW

    T-Will is lazy, thats why. I agree though that if we are looking for pure upside, he has loads of it.

  • Greg

    not enough minutes in PHX for T-Will, same thing will happen to him here as everywhere else. reason he wont ever get a chance to start or get consistent minutes is because he isnt that good…..

  • KLS

    Why even play the regular season now? It’s obvious that this addition puts Phx over the top and a title contender. Lets move straight on to the playoffs with Phx ranked no. 1 in the west. J/K

    This addition doesn’t surprise me, it seemed like Phx was going to have the end of their bench be filled with someone who’d be signed after the summer league. Tucker stood out and played the right position. Good for him. I hope he takes the opportunity and runs with it – even if this means working hard behind the scenes and playing hard in practice. Who knows, maybe he’ll even get a couple minutes to prove himself.

    On a completely unrelated side note of another prior Sun named Tucker – I broke out my old ’09 NBA LIve game and guess who becomes an NBA star in it? Alando Tucker. Random FYI…

  • Greg

    Ronnie Brewer was signed for 1 year 1.07 mil by the knicks…one of the top wing defenders around playing at 6’7” and alot of length.he would have been a nice one year addition…

  • Ty-Sun

    The more I hear about Tucker the more I think he has the right attitude to be one of those “bench mob” kind of guys.

  • frenchysunsfan

    Tucker will be our 13th man, he’s a good defender but he won’t play this year except a few garbage times.
    He will have the same role as Taylor Griffin a few year ago, even if he is much better than Blake’s brother.

  • Yohance

    @Zack B

    I’m not so sure about T. Will.
    I would have liked the suns to sign Brewer
    from the bulls though. He is gone now so I could
    see why we might want a defensive minded wing player in
    P.J. Tucker. It could only help to motivate guys like Warrick Brown, Dudley, Beasley, etc. to give it all they have. I think Gentry and staff are trying to change the culture. Not saying we will be like the Heat, Spurs, Bulls, or Celtics, when it comes down to defense. But we should be better this year. I also saw that their was a rumor that the Hornets are trying to do a sign and trade with the suns to acquire Robin Lopez. I hope it is not true. I don’t see anyone on their team worth getting. Unless they are looking to include another team too and draft picks. I would not think we would deal with them especially after we could not work something out to obtain Gordon from them. I guess we will have to wait and see. I just hope they continue to try and make smart roster moves. We need to have assets and cap space for the years to come if we are trying to rebuild to contend for a championship. I look forward to this coming year, think we will surprise a few people this year.

  • http://none Michael

    I noticed Lighty on the defensive end i think he mabe would have made a better adition than Tucker as he could come of the bench as a defensive SG, but well see i guess.

  • http://none Michael

    Whos is t will???

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