P.J. Tucker is more than just Mr. Hustle for the Phoenix Suns, he is Mr. Consistency.
While the forward has won the award the Dan Majerle Hustle Award the past 4 years running, he also led the Suns with 2,540 minutes played in 2015-16 (31 minutes per game) while not missing a game. Tucker has missed 8 games total in the past 4 seasons.
The former University of Texas (not A&M as incorrectly stated originally. No disrespect to the horns) big man will be entering his 6th NBA season in 2016-17, but it will be his 11th year as a pro. Tucker spent 5 years playing internationally. Prior to playing internationally, Tucker played 17 games in one season for the Toronto Raptors, the team that drafted him 35th overall in the 2006 draft.
P.J. Tucker is 31, and does not possess a high enough ceiling to continue justifying the amount of minutes he is getting. This is a tough spot for Tucker, who is playing the best basketball of his professional career with the Suns.
The perfect scenario for the Phoenix Suns would see Devin Booker and T.J. Warren grow into consistent and productive players, pushing Tucker out of the starting lineup. It will not be a successful season for the Suns if Tucker leads the team in minutes again.
At small forward the Suns now have T.J. Warren, Jared Dudley, and potentially Dragan Bender or Devin Booker in certain lineups. Finding a spot for Tucker could become difficult.
But that doesn’t change the fact that this is a great move to keep Tucker. His contract is just $5.3 million for 2016-17. After the recent free agency spending spree, that is a bargain. He is also a leader on the team and an example of hard work leading to significantly improved play.
The Phoenix Suns should look to move Tucker for long-term assets if they realize that their young stable of talent can handle the workload and compete (not necessarily win) without him. Tucker is a great Sun – but it is simply a fact that a 31-year-old on an expiring contract is not a piece to build around.
If Tucker really wants to play a bench role on the Suns resurgence, he can always return at the end of the 2016-17 season. Sounds like a win-win from here.
Tucker is a 3-and-D wing, shooting .349% from three for his career, while bringing physical defense that occasionally means a hard foul:
There should always be a market for Tucker. If not, having a tough defender on the bench isn’t a bad situation. If they can’t move Tucker and he spends the season teaching the young guys how to work, he will earn his salary.
Next: #2: The End of the Morris Saga