Apr 6, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker celebrates in the closing seconds of the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Thunder 122-115. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns Player Profile: P.J. Tucker

Stats:| 30.7 MPG | 9.4 PPG | 6.5 RPG | 1.7 APG | 1.4 SPG | 43.1 FG% | 38.7 3P% |

P.J. Tucker started out the year ranked the 354th best player in the NBA, according to ESPN… 354th. This number was obviously way off of the final result, as P.J. Tucker surprised many by being one of the best defenders in the NBA, in addition to holding his own in the other areas of his game. Tucker fought and scrapped for his team in every are that they really needed, and his toughness provided a fantastic boost to the Suns, who went on to win 48 games.

Season Arc:

Without a doubt, the 2013-2014 season was the most successful of P.J. Tucker’s career, as he posted career-highs in minutes, games, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, and points, among other categories. Tucker even had 11 double-doubles in the 2013-2014 season, which was more than three times the total of his previous two years in the NBA. Game after game, Tucker was asked to guard the opposing team’s best scorer, and he was almost always up to the challenge. Tucker finished the year ranked 8th in the NBA in steal-to-turnover ratio, meaning that he earned the Suns way more possessions then he lost, which was just another way that he impacted every game he played in.

Best Game:

Tucker’s most memorable performance came in a victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, as Tucker shined on both sides of the ball. P.J. Tucker scored 22 points on 9 shots, hitting four of his five three-point attempts. Additionally, Tucker ended up with seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks, and he did not commit a single turnover in his 40 minutes of playing time. However, Tucker did not only impact the game on the offensive end.

Tucker did post two steals and two blocks, but his most memorable defensive statistic was not reflected in his stat-line. Kevin Durant shot just 13/28 (46.4%) from the field and just 4/15 (26.7%) from three, in addition to committing three turnovers, largely in part to the defense of P.J. Tucker. Durant had to work extremely had to get all of his points, and this allowed the Suns to grab a huge win against the Thunder, snapping Oklahoma City’s three-game winning streak.

Strengths:

P.J. Tucker is one of the better lock-down defenders in the entire NBA. Tucker finished 12th in voting for Defensive Player of the Year, ahead of notable stars such as Chris Paul and Marc Gasol. Tucker often found himself taking on the responsibility of guarding the other team’s leading scorer, game after game, and his professionalism in accepting that role was certainly appreciated.

Tucker also showed a lot of energy and hustle in the 2013-2014 season, as he was always the first guy on the floor when there was a lose ball to be won. Tucker set a fantastic example for some of the younger players on the Suns, as they were able to witness a guy, who was once called one of the worst players in the NBA, transform into a consistent starter and a defensive force.

Development:

In addition to developing as a defender, Tucker drastically improved his long range shooting from his previous seasons. Tucker’s three-point percentage rose by nearly 10%, as he posted career highs in the categories of three-point attempts, three-point field goals, and three-point percentage. In fact, Tucker made more three pointers in the 2013-2014 season then he had in the previous two seasons of his career, combined. Additionally, Tucker really developed a spot on the floor where he could hit consistently from, as he went 35/73 (48.0%) on three-point attempts from the left corner, which was up more than 15% from the previous season.

Weaknesses:

P.J. Tucker’s greatest areas for improvement spurn from the fact that he isn’t exactly the most athletic guy on the court. While Tucker does have a remarkable seven-foot wingspan (which is especially significant considering that he is only 6’6″), he doesn’t have the elite athletic ability that a lot of other small forwards in the NBA posses. For this reason, Tucker sometimes struggles to score around the hoop and make strong off-ball cuts, which is an area that he can continue to improve in.

Future with the Team:

P.J. Tucker will be a restricted free agent this summer, but it will be hard for the Suns to give him up, especially given that Tucker recently came out and said that he wanted to retire as a Sun. The Suns gave Tucker an opportunity to play, and one would have to imagine that Tucker will want to stay in Phoenix for the long run. Short of the Suns acquiring new talent at the small forward position via trade, Tucker appears to be a part of the Suns’ future for now.

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