Going into the season, the small forward position was stuffed with three players vying for a starting spot. Tucker had been the starter most of last season, after supplanting Michael Beasley. Marcus Morris had been creating buzz this offseason in summer league. Coming from Indiana, Gerald Green looked to be in the mix and upped his value with great play in the preseason.
However, Green has been playing shooting guard, especially with Dragic injured off-and-on so far this season. Marcus Morris’ play has been decent thus far, but he hasn’t been nearly good enough to take the starting role from Tucker.
P.J. is the hustle king. He’s that junkyard dog. He has a nose for the ball, always seeming to be in the right place at the right time. It isn’t a coincidence, he has the instincts needed to be a dominant rebounder. He eats all your rebounds for breakfast. He isn’t like a 7-2 Roy Hibbert who has overwhelming rebound totals, but he seems to get them in crunch-time, when the Suns need the ball.
This past summer however, Tucker has upgraded his offensive arsenal.
He added a three-point shot to his game, which formerly consisted of only fast-break and put-back points.
In 2006-07 after getting drafted by Toronto, Tucker never even attempted a shot from behind the arc in 17 games. Last season, (seven years later) he played in 79 games and started 45 games at small forward for the Suns. He shot 22-70 from the perimeter for .314 percent, which is decent, but not spectacular by any means.
This season is different though.
Although it is a small sample size, Tucker has shot 12-22 from behind the arc for .545 percent, which is third in the NBA. Tucker is behind only New Orleans Pelican Anthony Morrow (.556) and Milwaukee Buck Gary Neal (.548).
Previously, Tucker barely shot the ball unless he was close enough to touch the basket. Now he is routinely open in the short corner, and is knocking down those three-pointers, opening up the offense. He will continue to get those looks with the dynamic playmakers of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe driving into the lane.
The 28-year-old has added years to his career by enhancing his offensive game, which results in more money in the bank for him down the road.
He put in the work necessary, but what else would you expect from such a hard-working player as Tucker.