Philadelphia 76ers: If Joel Embiid wants P.J. Tucker then sign P.J. Tucker

After getting bullied up and down Broad Street for three games versus the Miami Heat – plus three more down in South Beach – Joel Embiid wants his Philadelphia 76ers to toughen up.

He doesn’t want to see the rebounding battle always lopsided in the other direction, doesn’t want to see his teammates run back on defense without boxing out, and, most crucially of all, doesn’t want to take elbows to the case without and enforcer to throw a few back.

Now granted, the Sixers have a few players who fit that bill, most notably Georges Niang, who can be a real pesky so-and-so from time to time, but he’s more of a one-way performer who often closes out games with a negative plus-minus when his shot isn’t falling.

No, despite having more than a few needs across the roster, from backup point guard to premier 3-point shooters and the ever-elusive super-sized wing, the Sixers can’t overlook adding toughness to their roster, too, as the same old fitness game around Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, and James Harden just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

So, after asking for a P.J. Tucker-type player during his closing thoughts on the season, Joel Embiid should be pushing Daryl Morey to sign the actual P.J. Tucker, as he just decided his option with the Miami Heat and can now sign wherever he pleases, including the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Philadelphia 76ers should not hesitate to pursue P.J. Tucker on the MLE.

P.J. Tucker is not what you would call a statistical darling.

He doesn’t attempt or make 3s at a particularly high clip, doesn’t have elite rebounding numbers, and has never averaged 10 points over a full NBA season. But what Tucker can do, and can do incredibly well, are the little things that turn a team from good to great and from great to championship-caliber.

Do you like steals? Well, Tucker has recorded 887 of them over 777 professional games. How about offensive rebounds? Tucker was one of just five players standing 6-foot-5 or shorter who recorded 1.4 offensive boards per game in 2021-22.

And… oh yeah, defense; is Tucker any good at defense? In a word, yes. According to FiveThirtyEight, Tucker has had a positive Defensive Raptor rating in every one of his professional seasons since 2013-14, when the stat came into being. He’s recorded a positive defensive box plus-minus rating in all but one of his professional seasons – all the way back in 2012-14 – and even now, at the tender age of 37, Tucker is the kind of player who will lay into opposing ball handlers and give them a tough time as an on-ball defender.

Play Tucker in the Robert Covington, top-of-the-key on-ball defensive role with Matisse Thybulle serving as an off-ball disruptor and Joel Embiid in the paint, and suddenly, the Sixers’ defense is looking darn good indeed.

Is P.J. Tucker a magic, fix-all performer who can magically right all of the Philadelphia 76ers’ wrongs? Nope; he, again, isn’t going to shoot the lights out of the gym and just generally lacks an ability to be more than the fifth option for even an above-average offense. Still, for the taxpayer mid-level exception, which maxes out at $6.339 million, Tucker could serve as the tough-as-nails connective tissue of the Sixers’ offense; the beef tendon in a fully loaded pho, if you will.