Amid all of the LeBron James “I am going to take my skills to…” talk, volume 2, over the past two weeks, not much was made of the Suns’ re-signing of PJ Tucker to a three year, $16.5 million contract. Yet one thing is for certain: this was a pivotal signing for Ryan McDonough in his efforts to reestablish the Suns to NBA prominence.
Some may question how it could be so critical to sign an undersized small forward who has played in the NBA in only three of seven seasons since leaving the University of Texas as a second team All-American. From the time he was drafted by Toronto Raptors with the 35th overall pick in 2006 through the end of the 2011-2012 season, he had amassed less than 85 total minutes of NBA playing time. He presently has a grand total of 177 career games played, almost half of which were from this past season with the Suns, and his career average is just over 7 points per game. Aren’t there dozens of players who could fill those shoes? Well, the short answer is “no.”
Please allow me to list all the means by which PJ provides significant value to the Suns. Defense is infectious and PJ can play defense. He is always willing to take on the top offensive threat from the opposing team, much the same of Raja Bell did when with the Suns from 2005-2008.
PJ recognizes that talent takes a player only so far, and the rest of success is a function of the player’s heart and commitment. He shows that every minute he is on the court. When an athletically more talented teammate has a guy like PJ outworking him on the court, it is impossible for the more talented guy not to elevate his game.
On both ends of the court, if PJ is near the rim when a shot goes up, he will risk life and limb to battle for a rebound even when he is outsized, much the same as Charles Barkley did when with the Suns from 1992 to 1996. If PJ doesn’t come down with the board, the opposing team will still have to account for him during subsequent trips down the court, thereby opening up the potential for a rebound by one of the designated team rebounders.
Every locker room needs a PJ Tucker. He will often be the first voice heard in the locker room, whether before a game, during a halftime in which the Suns are trailing, or after a loss. His influence will equate to more close game victories because he will add the necessary ingredient that makes the few point difference. Because of him, losing streaks will not last as long. He just won’t allow it. When basketball’s version of the “dog days of summer” hit in late February, it will be a guy like PJ who will make sure that the team keeps their eye on the prize.
Guys like PJ Tucker are a necessary ingredient in building a contender. They the anti- Alan Iversons who understand the benefit of practicing hard. They are the guys who really believe in the concept of team basketball. They are the guys who make their teammates better. They are the guys that help bring championships.