This was not the magical year that P.J. Tucker, or anyone with the Phoenix Suns, hoped for. Tucker did not do himself any favors either.
While his bottom line numbers were nearly identical year over year, no one - not even P.J. Tucker - would say it was as impactful or as positive.
Last year, his 9 points and 6 rebounds per game were given an A- on the season, and no one really expected any improvement from him year over year. We knew that was a career year and were happy to get it. Check out the article and comments (from many of the same readers who will comment this year) by clicking the link in this paragraph.
Well, P.J. delivered the same bottom line - 9 and 6 - this year, but no one thinks it was a great year. Yet, he's still the same guy he's always been and that's not all bad.
Let's just get this out of the way. P.J. Tucker had a no-good, very bad year off the court. He started it by getting a Super Extreme DUI and proceeded to "miss the team bus" at least two times during the season, resulting in several games missed due to suspension.
Tucker also contributed to the Suns' tech fest, famously refusing to admit that his technical toward the end of crucial game had an impact on the final outcome. Tucker was benched for the final minutes of the San Antonio game, and then for much of the second half of another game for another tech, before the coach finally lightened the rule after the players convinced him they couldn't possibly stop getting technicals just because everyone wanted them to.
Tucker wasn't good as a leader either. Hornacek called him the closest thing to a leader a year ago, in terms of hyping guys up and leading by example on the court, but this year Tucker lost that edge. Maybe it was the suspension to start the year, and coming off the bench for a month. Maybe it was Tucker being unreliable off the court.
Either way, Tucker may have been an inspiration this year but not in the way he probably wanted to be.
Tucker's stats were basically identical year over year (see below), but the area that came up really short this year - and hurt the Suns a lot - was in his outside shooting.
A year ago, he proved himself as a viable starter by being a quality three-point shooter who could stretch the floor and force the opponent's defender to sit another 2-3 feet closer to the Tucker's corner, which opened passing lanes for driving guards.
But Tucker made only 34.5% of his threes this year after making nearly 39% a year ago. He was asked to take more of those shots this year (3.2 per game this year vs. 2.4 per game a year ago), and just couldn't handle the pressure and keep the defense honest.
Worse, he made just 31% of his threes after the All-Star break, helping the team become the league's worst three-point shooting team in the league.
Everything else was pretty darn good. When Tucker was on the court and the ball was live, he was the same guy that inspired players his first two seasons on the squad.
Our own blog nominated him for Player of the Week several times this year for his dedication and overall effort whether the shot was falling or not.
His last two seasons have nearly been identical on the statistical front.
- 2014-15: 30.6 min, 3.3 FGM, 7.6 FGA, 43.8% FG, 6.4 REB, 1.6 AST, 1.4 STL, .3 BLK, 9.1 PTS
- 2013-14: 30.7 min, 3.3 FGM, 7.6 FGA, 43.1% FG, 6.5 REB, 1.7 AST, 1.4 STL, .3 BLK, 9.4 PTS
We liked him so much last year, we wanted him to sign a long-term contract to stay with the Suns forever. We thought the Suns had a hidden gem in Tucker who was a lock-down individual defender and quality presence on offense.
He was the same guy this year, just not as likeable. And with not as much support around him.
He's one of the few regulars who actually stepped up in the second half of the season, after all the trades. Tucker upped his averages from 7.9 points and 5.9 rebounds before the break to 12.4 and 7.4, respectively. But he's not an offensive player, and his surge coincided with the Suns' having one of the league's worst offenses after the break.
He's not a savior, but he's darn right helpful in areas the Suns struggle, like with defense.
Here's a defensive highlights mix made mid-season.
*thanks to our contributor Sam Cooper for the highlight video!
And while P.J. isn't perfect, like here in January against James Harden...
...he follows it up with a clinic later in the year defending Harden in one of the best, and last, big Suns wins of the season. SB Nation's Mike Prada broke it down in this article.
Basically the same exact iso as the game winner Harden had hit earlier in the season, but Tucker defended it much better this time.
Read the rest of Prada's article on the Suns' team defense against the Rockets that helped the home team to one of their best, last wins this year.
Two days after that game, Eric Bledsoe said the Suns had enough time to fight for the playoffs. But then Bledsoe got sick, Alex Len stayed hurt, Brandon Knight was done for the year and so were the Suns.
Player Grade: C
I'm not a big fan of player grades because there's so many ways to interpret it.
- In terms of where he came from before joining the Suns, he should get an A (just like last year).
- In terms of his impact on the team this year when the ball was live, he should get something like a B or C.
- But in terms of his impact on the team, including the off-court issues, I'd give him an F.
Here's his end-of-season interview where he wasn't happy either but as he always does, he saw the silver lining in the haboob.
I am grateful that Tucker made himself available after nearly every game all season to the media, unlike some of his teammates. He was always honest and respectful, and really really wants the Suns to win games.
I'm looking forward to P.J. coming back in better shape and frame of mind, ready to do whatever it takes to win games. If the Suns trade Tucker to playoff contender, he will shine just like he did in 2013-14. Why not for the Suns?