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
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