With the 2021-2022 NBA season quickly approaching, many fans and media members alike are eager to find out which free agency additions will make an impact on their respective teams. For the Miami Heat, one of these players is veteran P.J. Tucker, who is expected to play a major role for the Heat as they embark on their quest for their franchise’s fourth NBA championship.
Tucker, a 6’5 power forward who last played with the Milwaukee Bucks, is expected to add a blue-collar toughness on defense that was absent from the Heat last season. Tucker has made a living in the NBA for his defense, and this defense was on full display throughout the Bucks’ championship run.
Tucker is a sensational and versatile on-ball defender, with the ability to effectively guard all five positions. He can use his burly stature to overpower big men who opt to back Tucker down in the post, and his quick feet to keep up with smaller guards out on the perimeter. His multifaceted skillset on defense is a perfect fit for the Heat and their switch-heavy defense.
With Tucker’s impressive on-ball defense, the Heat are adding a player who matches up well against a majority of the elite scorers in the NBA. One of the many reasons why the Heat lost to the Bucks in last season’s first-round matchup of the playoffs was because of Miami’s inability to effectively guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Heat primarily used Trevor Ariza to guard Antetokoumpo, who was not strong enough to guard the 242lb superstar. Tucker, on the other hand, at 245lbs, would be a much more suitable defender against the “Greek Freak” should Miami match up against Milwaukee in the playoffs once again.
Tucker also shines as a defender away from the ball, as he is a tenacious ball-denier. Using his excellent basketball IQ, Tucker can anticipate when his man is about to attempt to receive the ball, and he is often in a good position to steal the incoming pass or hand-off.
Another aspect of Tucker’s duffle bag of defensive abilities that coincides with Miami’s mantra of “Heat Culture” is his willingness to draw charges. He ranked in the top 30 in charges drawn last season with 10, which he did so in only 52 games played.
As an offensive player, Tucker fills a limited, yet very important role. His job in Miami will be to stand in the corners and shoot 3-pointers; that’s it. He will be asked to space out the floor, allowing the rest of the pick-and-roll and dribble-handoff-heavy offense to operate smoothly.
One aspect of Tucker’s corner 3-point shooting that was a little strange in the 2021 season was the discrepancy in shooting percentage between the left and right corners. In the right corner, Tucker shot very well from downtown at 42.6% off of 54 attempts. In contrast, he only made 26.5% of his 49 left corner shots from beyond the arc. The Heat might be doing themselves a favor by placing Tucker in the right corner on offense more often than the left corner.
Tucker will also make an impact on the Heat as a vocal leader, as he is widely known among league circles as one.
“He knows what his strengths are, he brings it every day for practice or for a game, and it infects everybody else,” said San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich on Tucker. “He’s kind of a natural leader in that respect.”
Given the versatility and toughness he provides on defense, the spacing and shot-making ability he brings forth on offense, and the selfless ways in which he leads his teammates, Tucker is a welcome addition to a Heat team that is looking to make another deep playoff run in a loaded NBA Eastern Conference.
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