Apr 6, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (on ground) celebrates with teammates Goran Dragic (1) and Gerald Green (14) after being fouled in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Thunder 122-115. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

NBA free agency: P.J. Tucker signs 3-year deal with Suns

It was less than five months ago when Suns coach Jeff Hornacek openly feared another team scooping up forward P.J. Tucker in free agency. As of Thursday, Hornacek no longer has to worry.

The Phoenix Suns agreed to re-sign their starting small forward to a three-year, $16.5 million deal that comes with a non-guaranteed amount of $3.8 million in the final year, according to the Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro.

The move averts Phoenix having to match another teams’ offers for the restricted free agent. Those offers probably came about slowly with squads waiting on the domino effect of LeBron James’ signing. It helped that teams were unwilling to hand out mid-level exceptions before making more expensive moves; they were also not ready to have Tucker’s offer sheet holding them up for the three days before Phoenix could have matched. The Suns handed Tucker a deal similar in size to the mid-level exception, and that was probably what they would have had to do in the long run if they attempted to wait out, then match deals for Tucker.

The Suns’ vocal leader averaged 9.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season while becoming the team’s go-to perimeter defender.

Though he improved his three-point shot to hit better than 38 percent thanks to Hornacek’s system setting him up in the corners, Tucker has never been and probably will never be an analytical savant. His defensive statistics rank poorly because he took on the best scorers in the league every night, and his over-dribbling and offensive decision-making has been questionable at times.

But the Suns fully realized it’s worth paying their locker room leader — in this market, it’s hardly overpaying.

When Tucker first signed on with the Suns following a five-year hiatus from the NBA, he promised he had grown up overseas. Former general manager Lance Blanks’ most successful pet project probably hasn’t disappointed a single team personnel member.

“I’ve been all around the world playing,” Tucker said in August of 2011. “At some point you have to take in account your actions, what you do and what it takes to be able to grow in this business, to be able to have people want to bring you in, have people want to always say your name, and having you be around in the topic of conversation.

“So for that to happen — more than points, rebounds — it’s that this guy is a great guy on and off the court, great teammate, great guy in the locker room and guys like to play with him.”

When former assistant Dan Majerle sung Tucker’s praises during and after the forward’s first Summer League with the team, it should have been taken as a hint the partially-guaranteed contract Tucker signed would be played out. When Alvin Gentry moved Tucker into the starting lineup in place of Michael Beasley, and when Gentry’s replacement, Lindsey Hunter, said most every day he would go to battle with Tucker, it was clear enough. That Jeff Hornacek echoed that with worries the Suns would lose Tucker after the season wasn’t surprising.

With this signing, it’s clear general manager Ryan McDonough sees the value in Tucker’s leadership as well.

Take this into account: the Golden State Warriors paid Shaun Livingston, a player who was on the other coast a season ago, nearly the same deal at three years and $16 million. The Pistons signed shooter Jodie Meeks to a three-year deal worth $19 million. The Orlando Magic signed on guard Ben Gordon for about a million less than Tucker per season. And the Indiana Pacers added depth to their perimeter rotation by inking C.J. Miles to a three-year, $18 million deal.

That’s the market these days. For Phoenix to bring back its leader, it’s not surprising.

Thomas and Suns will meet again, Morrow a target

David Aldridge has a few Suns-related notes on what’s quickly become a busy day of free agency.

  • coachj

    OK. If you are getting a guy that actually puts effort on the defensive end, is hard nosed and tough, actually contributes something on the court AND floats in between being a starter/bench guy that you can move around without hurting his ego, and pay him 5.5M for two years, that isn’t a bad deal.

    • JT3

      Not a bad deal exactly but PJ should really be coming off the Bench as an energy guy. One day Suns are really going to need a starting SF who is not so limited a player as Tucker if they are ever going to make the jump as a true playoff Team.

      • DBreezy

        They seem to be very aware of that. If Marcus or Gerald could play even average defense on a nightly basis, PJ’s status here would have been tenuous imo. TJ Warren is up next.

        • JT3

          Haha, very good , How much would Green be worth if he could remain at least competent on the other end? Way too many lapses on D to trust him on the better NBA SF/SG. Grant Hill was the ideal for that position on both ends and I suspect that’s what they are hoping for from Warren. A nice two way player that can be reliable on both ends. But Marcus can’t seem to show enough of anything and I get that they really respect Green. However I just get that feeling that they would rather have a more reliable shooter off the bench too then such a up and down, night and day, shoot you in games/shoot you out of games player as Green is.

          Man that’s exactly how I feel too. No one they can rely on so they over payed [not for a stater] but for the skill level who should be a great Bird man type player off the bench. But they felt it was the right move at this time, since all they have at that position is limited in ways. Can they just go ahead now and engineer a clone of PJ Green? lol.

          • coachj

            I am not sure within this CURRENT environment, that they WAY over paid PJ. I think they might be about $1-1.5 per year over, but he would have gotten that from someone. He brings tenacity, a mental toughness, a willingness to play his role and not stray from it, and is capable enough shooter to not be a liability on either end.

            Marcus sucks. I am not a fan. Green is a far better teammate, far less of an over-dribbling jerkoff, and a far superior [despite being completely useless] defender that Shannon Brown. So there is that.

          • DBreezy

            A clone like that would be nice, but I can’t fault them for the price they paid for PJ. It’s a bit high, but with the 3rd year not guaranteed it’s essentially an expiring deal in 2015-2016. So if they have to move him to clear cap space for some potential signing, it shouldn’t be a big deal.

            I agree with you on Gerald’s inconsistency, it’s one of the nagging things in the back of my mind about the squad. They proved me and countless others wrong with their performance last season, but some guys had seasons that were outliers thus far in there careers. If the team essentially stands pat, they need those players to have equal or better seasons in 2014-2015 to remain in playoff contention. Green has been up and down in his career despite unquestionable talent. What will get this season? Especially if something funky comes out of the Bledsoe free agency. Gerald could end up starting next season.

        • coachj

          TJ Warren is going to make Gerald Green look like and All-NBA First Team Defender. Mark my words. I have seen at least 25 of his games at NC State. He is beyond terrible on that end. He was far and away the best scorer in the ACC. Awkward, herky-jerky, took a lot of shots, many of them awful shots, but always seemed to find a way to score. Not a good shooter. I think he struggles unless he can channel an inner cedric ceballos.

          • DBreezy

            I suspect he’ll find a way to score, that seems to be his thing and if Hornacek begins installing any of the Sloan Utah offense in the half court he seems like the type of player who could take advantage of it. I’m interested to see what he does over the next year or so defensively as I’ve heard the same reports as you. It’s always interesting with wing guys on D, as so many of the best ones in the league were often primarily scorers in college. It’s weird to look and see that offensively challenged guys like Tony Allen and Bruce Bowen averaged 16ppg in college. So many of the guys touted to be lockdown wings coming in like Corey Brewer, MKG, etc don’t really pan out as expected on that end. Listening to Hornacek and McD, they clearly see potential in TJ on that end of the court, so we’ll see. If he shows something on that end, I think the starting 3 job is his in time. PJ’s contract is pretty trade friendly after this season.

          • coachj

            They talk like that because they all believe that THEY will teach the player to defend. Coaches and GM’s always think they can do what other couldn’t. That is why they hand out big deals that bite them in the ass.

            After 20+ years of coaching, I can tell you first hand that by the time a kid is 22 and has played 4 years in college, if he hasn’t shown the willingness to work on that end, or shown any improvement, it more than likely will never happen. Athleticism and physical tools suck people into believing a player has potential, but the reality is that defense is as much a mental attitude as it is having the physical gifts to do it. You need both.

            Think about what they said about Amare. They said “he is working on it, improving…” blah blah blah. That never panned out. Neither will Gerald Green. Nor will the Morri. Plumlee will. Tucker, yes. Dragic and Bledsoe, yes. Jury is still out on Goodwin and Len, they are still young. Warren, hell no. Ennis? One year in defense purgatory [or Syracuse] may either taint him, or he wasn’t there long enough to be ruined.

          • DBreezy

            I agree with you on people getting suckered in often, but TJ is still 20 and only spent two years in school. I don’t think the door is closed on him as a defender, but I would agree that the deck is stacked. Guys like Amar’e, Green, etc straight out of high school are very dependent on who their early coaches and staffs are in addition to where their heads are at. Amar’e would probably had been a different player defensively if he had been picked by the Pistons for example. Such is life, so much of D is about discipline anyway. It’s nice to have plus defenders for sure, but there have been several championship caliber teams defensively who have gotten by with average or worse defenders out there as long as the scheme is followed night in and out.

          • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

            I mostly agree with you except I believe your opinion works both ways. Plumlee has always played defense to the detriment of developing his offensive game. People who think Plumlee will suddenly learn how to shoot the ball at age 26 and after four years of college are going to be disappointed.

            How is the school still out on Goodwin? The kid got after it on the defensive end in college. He might of gambled too much but he very active on the defensive end.

      • 4everis2long

        Very true JT3.

      • coachj

        I think that is kind of what I am saying. A good stop-gap starter who on a team with a legit starter would be anchoring the bench.

  • Arizona Jim

    Wow, way overpaid for him.

    • Horny’s Harem

      not even close. He’s a bargain compared to almost every other FA deal this year.

    • Robert Erickson

      What are you talking about? For the market value that other players in similar positions, we got a better deal or about what he would have gotten from other teams. He’s somebody we needed to keep after losing Frye.

      • sunsn7

        Frye leaving was a good thing..if you value play on BOTH ends of the floor. Will not miss his matador defense/ boxing out on the boards. Magic gave too much money for a chuck and duck, one trick pony. They will regret the contract they gave him.

    • Voqar

      It’s a great signing. Tucker has improved his game every season and there’s no reason to think he’s reached his ceiling yet. He’s driven to win and plays both sides of the ball well. Don’t be ridiculous. Not to compare since Tucker is worth it period, but this is a WAY better deal than Frye, Haywood, and many of the others going on.

      No clue why the Suns are chasing Thomas. A small and overrated guard from a loser team is not what we need.

  • Horny’s Harem

    Woohoooo! So glad we re-signed him, especially at that price. With how many others are getting way overpaid, that is a bargain deal, for sure. Best signing of the FA period so far. I’m so relieved we didn’t give a max to Parsons or Hayward. Tucker will continue to do just fine and be a solid starter. What a steal for the heart and soul of the team. Thank goodness we re-signed him.

  • 4everis2long

    Man I was hoping Goodwin got more minutes next season.It looks like Suns are preparing for a trade. There seems to be trade brewing somewhere.

    • sunsn7

      Better not be getting rid of Archie Goodwin. That would be a COLOSSAL mistake. McD is smarter than that thankfully…

      • 4everis2long

        I sure hope Goodwin isn’t going but something has to give. They could have a pending deal to ship Green but that could be a problem as he is one of the better shooters on the team.

    • HankS

      For the last month, the Suns have been consistently interested in point guards, their position of strength, actually drafting one and inquiring about others.
      At the same time, the Suns have been totally uninterested in power forwards, their position of weakness, and as for small forwards, they don’t seem to have been much interested in any upgrades not named LeBron.
      I know it’s wishful thinking, but I smell something big here. Something K-Love-sized. There have been no rumours coming out of Minnesota for quite a while now, you know.
      And while it’s widely assumed that LeBron is choosing between the Cavs and the Heat, how do we know he’s not simply trying to get them make him a better offer than he has from the Suns?
      Just for being wishful, a thinking doesn’t have to be wrong…

  • sunsn7

    Way to go Suns in bringing back Mr. Tenacity, PJ Tucker! Very good re-signing at a fair price for both parties. Do not underestimate his locker room presence and how that translates on the floor. He didn’t get the Dan Majerle Hustle Award in back to back seasons for no reason. That would’ve been IDIOTIC for the Suns to even entertain anything close to max contracts for Parsons or Hayward. The best move was no move at all in regard to those 2 guys.
    Isaiah Thomas? Umm….NO!
    Get out of the way Sarver and let Ryan McDonough handle this.

  • sunsn7

    No thumbs down displayed anymore Disqus?
    Political correctness is taking over.

  • Elliot Perry’s Sentient Socks

    I don’t know if my comment first attempting to point this out got rejected because it had a link in it, or what, but CJ Miles’ deal was 18 million for four years. That’s a pretty significant difference in terms of comparing it to this deal.

  • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

    It was a decent signing, only two years fully guaranteed. It was worth it for Tucker’s attitude alone. Suns have rarely had that “enforcer” attitude on their teams in the past twenty years. Who were the last Sun’s enforcers? Maybe coaches West and Gattison? Maurice Lucas? A bit of “old school” on the court is never a bad thing considering the Suns have always been viewed as a “finesse” team and not very fond of the extra contact during the playoffs.