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Rockets 2021 player previews: P.J. Tucker

What can we expect from P.J. Tucker this season?

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

P.J. Tucker

The upcoming season will be P.J. Tucker’s fourth season as a member of the Houston Rockets. It’s also the final year of a 4-year, $32 million contract he signed in 2017, and he isn’t thrilled about that.

With the departure of Tyson Chandler, Tucker is now officially the oldest member of the Rockets, clocking in at 35 years of age.

Chandler didn’t play a whole lot last season and he was the only true big man on the roster, which meant majority of those minutes at the center spot went to Tucker, who plays much taller than his 6’5” frame.

However, the Rockets changed that this offseason by adding two traditional big men in Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins, diminishing the need for Tucker to play heavy minutes guarding the opponent’s biggest player.

Tucker has also been considered as the team’s “glue guy” over the past few years, but with all of the drama following the Rockets this offseason, Tucker lost that title as well. It appears that Tucker is not thrilled with all of the change happening. Mike D’Antoni, Daryl Morey and James Harden were arguably Tucker’s three biggest supporters in Houston. Two of those guys are gone, and one isn’t gone because you can’t simply “resign” as the organization’s highest-paid employee with two years left on his contract.

It’s very possible Tucker can gain that “glue guy” title back, but it’s difficult when you’ve been away from the team and expressed desire to not fully commit to the team. The glue isn’t as sticky as it was before. To be totally fair to P.J., this is a very different situation for him and it takes time to adjust. Unfortunately for P.J. and the Rockets, time is not on either of their sides with just days until the season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Tucker is in the final year of his contract, and as someone who has expressed a desire to retire in Houston and continue playing, perhaps he will play with an ignited passion this season. To be totally fair to the Rockets, it’s difficult to fully commit to a player past their age-36 season. But, P.J. has been an invaluable part of the team on and off the court the past four years. He just wants to feel appreciated. The fans appreciate him, the teammates appreciate him, but the fixtures currently in the front office have yet to do that.

“I want to be where I’m wanted,” Tucker said in a recent press conference.

I think it’s safe to say that everyone wants Tucker in Houston, except for maybe one or two important people in the front office, and I’ll just say it, it sucks. Major sucky.

I really hope that Tucker plays for the Rockets beyond this season, and I feel like the new role carved out for him helps him tremendously.

We’ll likely see him play the most minutes at the four, which means he won’t have to spend an enormous amount of energy guarding players several inches taller than him. He can focus that energy towards his offensive game, which will require a little more movement out of him this season.

He’s also going to get more time to rest this season with a deeper frontcourt rotation. This will be an enormous benefit come playoff time when the Rockets will need his best minutes, if of course, he’s still with the team.

Ultimately, I think P.J. will stay with the Rockets as long as they are contending. If they drastically fall in the standings, a trade makes sense, but what’s to say the Rockets won’t be right in the thick of things come playoff time. If they do, P.J. Tucker will be a part of the reason why.