P.J. Tucker’s career has been comparable to that of a bottle of wine from a Napa vineyard — it gets better with age.
Last season, in his age-33 season, the Tuckwagon set career highs in starts (82), minutes (34.2 MPG), and steals (1.6 SPG).
It is important to understand why Tucker’s value has skyrocketed since he has grown in the league and why his presence will help the Rockets this season.
As the NBA has evolved, Tucker has evolved with it and they are intersecting at the perfect time. Tucker’s skillset is important for today’s NBA, but that was not the case ten years ago when he was on the outside looking in.
In the last two seasons with the Rockets, the intersection between the NBA’s style of play and Tucker’s has been as perfect as possible.
Last season, the trend improved from the previous year and the question this season is whether or not the trend will continue or if it will plateau.
Why Tucker Will Plateau
The Rockets’ pace is set to quicken this season with the addition of Russell Westbrook and the subtraction of Chris Paul.
Houston’s pace with Tucker on the floor last season came out to 98.22, a drop from 2018’s 98.82. If the Rockets are expected to crack a pace of 100 or higher this season, it will likely mean Tucker does not see the floor as often as he did last season and seeing a dip in his minutes.
Tucker’s usage rate last season also took a dive from 10.3 percent to 9.4 percent. With Westbrook in the fold, that number should also decrease.
He is also another year older and has yet to miss a game in two seasons. His body is going to catch up to him at some point.
He sustained a minor injury in the offseason that disallowed him from participating in the FIBA World Cup, but he has recovered enough to play in Rockets’ preseason. Hopefully this injury does not come back to bite Tucker when games begin to matter.
Why Tucker Will Trend Up
Tucker was the #1 corner-three shooter in the league last season. He has found his niche in the Rockets offense and even though the offense is expected to change slightly, that part should not change.
Tucker will be a larger part of the defensive end with CP3 in OKC. Teams will view him as the primary defender and he will be given tougher assignments this season.
With the lack of “big threes” and “super teams” this season, role players are more important now than ever before.
Tucker has been the ultimate role player for the Rockets for the past two years and he knows his role.
The role does not change this season and he has proven to be very comfortable with it.
If you asked 29 teams if they would like to have P.J. on their roster, I expect at least 27 or 28 teams to say yes without hesitation.
In a league all about offense, defense is going to be that much more important this season, and it all starts with P.J. Tucker.