Phoenix Suns P.J. Tucker is a dying breed

Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE

The Suns' Tucker is a throwback to an era when small forwards weren't so small.

Martin Knesevic is an NBA blogger residing in California. He writes for BlogNBasketball.com on a number of NBA teams and will occasionally contribute to BSotS on Suns topics. Today, he takes on P.J. Tucker who has made his presence known throughout the league already this season.

At Phoenix Suns training camp in San Diego, a colleague of mine asked "Hey, who's that big man taking shots?"

I responded...oh, that's P.J.Tucker, he's a swingman.

My counterpart..."A swingman?! That's a bigman."

Even I was caught off guard by Tuckers', um, girth. His shooting partner, Sean Rooks, looked scrawny standing next to him. The 6'6" small forward may be listed at 225 lbs but he looks more like 240.

This ain't the same P.J. who played sparingly for Toronto back in 2006-07. Nope, this is a whole different player. You'd be too after stints in Israel, Greece, Italy, Germany, Ukraine, and Puerto Rico. After all those stops, the new and improved Tucker has finally carved out an NBA niche for himself.

There was once a time when every NBA team had a P.J. Tucker or two...a beefy wing player coaches could sick on opposing scorers to help keep them grounded. These days, they're few and far between. But P.J. has shown recently how much he can contribute to a team in today's NBA. Just ask Lebron James...who had Tucker draped all over him recently in Phoenix and walked away with a new found respect for him.

You may remember that Charles Barkley played a lot at the 3-spot his first couple of years in the 80's, on a veteran 76ers squad. How about former Piston/Jazzman Adrian Dantley? He couldn't be stopped from scoring down on the block. His power forward game destroyed other small forwards.

In the 90's, the 'beefy small forward' trend continued, but with an emphasis on defense and toughness. Anthony Mason (the younger version) played the three-spot for years and made stars like Scottie Pippen and Dominique Wilkins pay for driving to the rim. The X-Man Xavier McDaniels, another former Knick as well as a former Phoenix Sun, intimidated perimeter players for over a decade...his days in Seattle and Boston, included.

I know...the aforementioned guys were proven All-Stars. Tucker will likely never be that. But here are a few names to remember more recently: Corliss Williamson, Bonzi Wells, Byron Houston. In more recent memory a player like Ime Udoka also played the wing hard and well with his thick frame. I see P.J. having a similar effect on Phoenix that Ime had on championship contender San Antonio.

With the current rules in the NBA allowing perimeter players to move around untouched, the big and physical SF has all but disappeared. Even the artist formerly known as Ron Artest was forced to adapt...he's t least 30 lbs lighter this year, out of necessity.

Speaking of Artest, Metta World Peace backed off a recent altercation with Tucker in Los Angeles. 'MWP' had to respect P.J.'s chippiness...and must've reminded him of a young Ron Artest. Today's lighter version of Ron-Ron wanted no piece of the Phoenix freight train.

The Suns rebounded from a slow start this season to hover around .500 (until this week), and that directly coincides with Tucker's increased minutes. He sparked a comeback win versus the Cavaliers at home to start this recent run of good play in the desert.

The stats page says that P.J. contributes 5 points and almost 4 rebounds a night in 18 minutes. But if you watch Suns games you'll know that this dog's bark is much louder.....and so is his bite.

Follow me at https//twitter.com/@nbaknez {For more of my stuff, check out www.blogNBAsketball.com}

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