• Gus Saltonstall

The Other Guys: PJ Tucker

Sports Illustrated

The Houston Rockets are 9-1 in their last 10 games and currently sit in the four seed of the Western Conference at 42-26. Under the leadership of head coach Mike D’Antoni and GM Daryl Morey the Rockets have been one of the most successful teams in the NBA over the past few seasons.

Players like James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela have been rightfully heaped with praise for their phenomenal play and clutch moments. Another name on the Rocket’s roster though has played a pivotal role in the team’s winning ways over the past two campaigns.

PJ Tucker.

The 33-year-old utility player out of Texas does a little bit of everything for the championship contending Houston Rockets. Tucker’s road to NBA success has not been an easy one though, and in many ways is a true testament to hard work paying off.

Drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft by the Toronto Raptors, Tucker only played in 17 games for the franchise before he was let go. From 2007 to 2011 Tucker took his trade around the world. Playing on basketball teams in Israel, Greece, Italy and Germany. Eventually finding his way back to the NBA for the Phoenix Suns in the 2012-13 season.

Tucker played five relatively successful seasons in Phoenix. Having his best year during the 13-14 campaign. Where he averaged 9.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 30.7 minutes of play. In 2017 the three and D specialist signed a 4 year, $32 million contract with the Houston Rockets.

Tucker’s season averages for the 2018 season don’t light up the box score. He’s averaging 7.6 points, 1.3 assists and 6.0 rebounds. While also chipping in on the defensive end with a career high 1.6 steals and 0.5 blocks a game.

Tucker’s defense is a big part of what makes him so valuable to the Rockets. Tucker has the size, at 6’6, 245 pounds where he can match up with almost anyone on the opposing team, and he generally takes the assignment of the opposition’s best player.

Tucker has to be one of the few players in NBA history to have a defensive sequence go viral on Twitter, as his lockdown defense on Kevin Durant in the closing minutes of a heated victory against the Golden State Warriors made for one the best highlights of the NBA season.

The basketball journeyman gets a justifiable amount of praise for his defense, but there is another elite aspect of his game that does not get quite enough attention. His three point corner shooting.

Tucker actually led the league last season in three point attempts (117), and makes (50), from the left corner. He also connected one more shots from the right corner then all but four players.

The three and D specialist is back at it again this year. Ranking in the 100th percentile of percentage of shots taken from the corner three, and making them at an impressive enough 39% rate.

Mike D’Antoni’s offense specifically looks to create shot attempts from the three point corners. It’s a big part of what allows Tucker to get looks from the left corner, and it was actually former Rockets swingman Trevor Ariza who led the league in right-corner threes during the 2016-17 season (56) and the 2017-18 season (49).

Tucker seems to get most of his attention for his shoe game.

But he is so much more than a celebrated sneakerhead.

PJ Tucker has fought and clawed his way to the position he’s at now. He does the dirty work on defense, he makes the corner three, and he deserves everyone’s respect for what he does on the NBA hardwood each and every night.

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