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Grading P.J. Tucker’s $33.2 million deal with Sixers in 2022 NBA free agency

Sixers, P.J. Tucker, P.J. Tucker Sixers free agency, 2022 NBA free agency

The whispers of the offseason proved to be true as the Philadelphia 76ers agreed with P.J. Tucker to a deal just minutes into 2022 NBA free agency.

Tucker drew interest around the NBA but was clearly a priority for Philadelphia. The roster has desperately lacked the toughness and versatility that the veteran possesses. Joel Embiid specifically mentioned Tucker following the Sixers’ playoff loss this season. The 37-year-old played a vital role in the Miami Heat’s playoff run, including knocking the Sixers out of the playoffs this year.

As Embiid put it when talking about Tucker following the series:

“He [Tucker] believes that no one can beat him. And he’s tough. He’s just physical, and he’s tough. And they have a few of those guys…And since I’ve been here, I’d be lying if I said that we’ve had those types of guys. Nothing against what we have, it’s just the truth. We never had P.J. Tucker. That’s really what I’m trying to say. So, I think physicality – especially once you get to the playoffs or the later rounds – you need that. You need those guys that are really tough.”

The Sixers officially handed the veteran a three-year, $33.2 million deal that is fully guaranteed. This took the entirety of the Sixers’ mid-level exception, which was opened up by James Harden’s decision to take less money on an extension.

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Grading P.J. Tucker’s Sixers Deal In 2022 NBA Free Agency

Grade: A-

Many people have turned their nose up at the concept of paying 40-year-old P.J. Tucker $10+ million, and for good reason. He is certainly past the point of what a player’s prime is expected as it is. While that is the harsh reality of the contract, it is one the Sixers had to accept because you must judge a player based on what they are still capable of doing. The former Heat standout played at a very high level last season and put forth one of the best seasons of his career. The market was still hot for Tucker, and it was clear he was at the top of Philadelphia’s priority list.

The Sixers are within their championship window and Tucker is a win-now piece who can help them reach it. Tucker has bounced around with several contenders and made a major impact with each team. It is essential to keep your team’s stars happy, and both Joel Embiid and James Harden were vocal about their desire for him to come to the team. Even at 37 years old, Tucker is a terrific complement to both players and had some of his best years alongside Harden in Houston.

The 2021 NBA champ will play an immediate role on the Sixers. It was clear the past few seasons how much the Sixers have lacked high-caliber role players. Tucker will help fill this void in a major way. The gravity from Embiid and the passing ability of Harden will certainly set Tucker up with quality looks. The corner 3-point specialist will be counted on to produce at a high rate and will likely get some of the best looks of his career. He also will provide some versatility on defense, which is greatly needed. Following Ben Simmons’ departure, the Sixers typically count on Tobias Harris to guard most starting wings. While Harris grew a great deal defensively, Tucker will still be an upgrade in this area.

The on-court benefits are certainly there, but the addition of P.J. Tucker means far more for this Sixers team. Embiid is absolutely right about how the roster around him has lacked toughness in recent years. The Sixers rely on Embiid’s energy to a fault, which has proven disastrous at times. Tucker will be a tone-setting veteran who will help change this.

The physicality and toughness that Tucker brings are sure to be loved by Philadelphia. He is a championship-pedigree player who will make an impact deep in the playoffs. It may not be ideal to be paying Tucker over $10 million two years from now, but this signing is with the intention to compete this season. Embiid is in the prime of his career and Harden is now 33 years old. Maximizing on their window and looking to win now is the sole priority for the Sixers.

It may not be the top-end free agent that catches eyes, but this is a great signing for the Sixers. Building the proper supporting case around Embiid and Harden is the key to their postseason success. P.J. Tucker checks the boxes for toughness, fit, and keeping the stars happy. This is an excellent addition for the Sixers, even if it is a bit of an overpay.