After the season ended, P.J. Tucker appeared on the Stephen A. Smith After Dark podcast to discuss the end of the season and the future for the team. When talking about the season, this is what he had to say about joining Houston:
"I couldn't be happier to be in Houston. I took less money to come to here. The #1 priority in FA was winning. [Stats] don't matter to me, what matters to me is doing what the team needs every night. Houston was the perfect situation, and this year proved me right." - PJ Tucker— Rob Kimbell (@RobKSports) June 8, 2018
Tucker gave this team a little bit of everything. He was one of the team’s best defensive players and provided a toughness that was a void needing to be filled when Patrick Beverley was sent off to Houston.
Tucker also provided durability as he was the only Rocket to play in all 99 games this season. His good health in his age-32 season is not something you usually see in the NBA today but Tucker was able to keep his body healthy and it paid off for the Rockets big time as the team had a higher offensive rating when Tucker was on the court and opponents had a lower offensive rating when Tucker was playing.
A big part of the Rockets’ season was when the Tuckwagon lineup took over and became a prevalent part of the Rockets’ dynamic.
The Tuckwagon lineup, an homage to the Chuckwagon lineup deployed by the Rockets in the late 2000’s featured Tucker as the five as the Rockets went with a smaller lineup. This created optimum space for the Rockets and flustered teams all around the league who preferred to play a more traditional style of basketball with a true big man.
Tucker, despite being 6’6”, was able to defend point guards to big men and it made him one of the most valuable members of the team. It’s no coincidence that when Tucker became a starter in February that the Rockets jumped from the 2 seed to the 1 seed and ran with it.
In the playoffs, Tucker was a huge part of the Rockets’ success. He had some hot and cold games throughout the postseason, but when he was hot, he gave opponents so many problems. The Rockets won every game in which Tucker made at least three triples, and perhaps his biggest playoff moment was dropping 22 in a Game 2 victory over the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
The game thrust Tucker’s name into the spotlight for a completely different reason than he was giving all season long. However, two games later, in perhaps the grittiest Rockets victory of the season, Tucker grabbed 16 rebounds in a win over the Warriors that evened the Conference Finals at two games apiece.
And in Game 7 of that series, P.J. had a great game on both ends of the floor. Tucker had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, eight of which were on the offensive end. All of that after playing with three root canals the night before.
Tucker gave this team a toughness identity that it lacked the season before. The stars of the team can be crucial to your success, but a team is also nothing without its supporting cast, which Tucker is one of the main members. And Tucker supported this team by giving his full effort every night and it is very easy to say that the Rockets would not have gotten as far as they did without Tucker.