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The Houston Rockets and veteran small forward PJ Tucker agreed to a four-year contract Saturday.
Per Shams Charania of The Vertical, the deal is worth $32 million over four years.
Tucker, a second-round pick of the Toronto Raptors in the 2006 NBA draft, rejoined the organization following a midseason trade from the Phoenix Suns. His offensive production dipped after the deal, with averages of 5.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He also shot 40.6 percent from the field in 24 contests, mostly off the bench.
The 32-year-old University of Texas product did provide the Raptors with stability at the defensive end, though. That’s been the forward’s calling card for most of his career, which has included six NBA seasons and five years overseas.
Tucker ranked 12th among small forwards in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus for the 2016-17 campaign.
Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic noted the well-traveled player’s response to the high-profile assignment of trying to guard Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James in the Eastern Conference semifinals:
Blake Murphy @BlakeMurphyODC
PJ Tucker spending an entire game defending LeBron. Clearly exhausted, clearly loving the challenge. However fruitless, dude is an animal.
In all, Tucker has averaged 7.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals across 418 NBA games. He’s also provided secondary three-point production as a 35.1 percent shooter from beyond the arc.
He told Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun in early May staying with the Raptors was “definitely an option,” but finding the best fit was the most important factor.
“Once you’re a veteran and older guy it’s more about fit,” Tucker said. “You want to win, obviously, but you want to go to a team where you can help push it to the next level. As a veteran guy, you want to be with coaches, players, where you totally fit.”
In the end, Tucker decided the Rockets gave him a better opportunity than the Raptors to become an important piece of the rotation next season.
His ability to defend an opponent’s top wing scorer is a key asset. He should fill that role for Houston as the squad tries to catch the Golden State Warriors in the loaded Western Conference.