How will the Philadelphia 76ers use P.J. Tucker in 2022-23?

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

P.J. Tucker is officially a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Sure, the NBA is reportedly investigating his contract for tampering, as another team – likely the Miami Heat – filed a complaint about something or another, but even if Philly has to surrender a second-round pick at some point down the line a la the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks in 2021, Tucker, and Danuel House, and Trevelin Queen for that matter too will still be on the Sixers unless Daryl Morey opts to release them from their contracts or trade them later this year.

That, my friends, is very good news.

Though Tucker is on the older side of the NBA spectrum, the seventh-oldest player who logged minutes last season sandwiched between Paul Millsap and Chris Paul, to be exact, he’s still a fantastic frontcourt defender, a plus turnover generator, and a performer perfectly suited for the 3-and-D role that made Danny Green a ton of money over the past few years.

Certainly, the Philadelphia 76ers are better off with P.J. Tucker in the loop this fall, but how will they use him? Will he slot into DG’s spot as the team’s small forward, play at his natural power forward spot, or even log a few minutes behind Joel Embiid as a small-ball center a la his time with Daryl Morey and James Harden in Philadelphia South West aka Houston?

The Philadelphia 76ers have options with P.J. Tucker.

In a vacuum, P.J. Tucker would be the Philadelphia 76ers’ starting power forward. Though he’s on the shorter side of the PF height spectrum at just 6-foot-5, he weighs 245 pounds, has a 6-foot-11 wingspan, and is more than willing to lock into the hip pocket of the biggest forwards and even centers in the NBA, as Joel Embiid learned firsthand in the second round of the 2022 NBA Playoffs. Unfortunately, at least for Tucker, the Sixers already have that position locked up in the starting lineup, as Tobias Harris has started 159 games at power forward over the past two seasons and wasn’t particularly keen on playing small forward when Al Horford also called the starting lineup home.

Now granted, slotting in Tucker between James Harden and Tobias Harris likely won’t affect his role all that much, as he’ll still stand in the corner waiting for an open 3 on offense and then defend on-ball against the best offensive forward on the opposing team, but when one looks at the positional breakdown at the end of the season, it’s hard to imagine the plurality, if not the outright majority being filed under the SF label.

With that being said, that isn’t the only role Tucker will play, both in the regular season and especially in the postseason. Whether due to necessity, matchup preferences, or just good old-fashioned ingenuity, one would assume that Tucker will eventually log minutes at all three frontcourt positions, from small forward all the way to the center spot.

Want to play elite defense in a lock-down unit? Play Tucker with Matisse Thybulle and DeAnthony Melton in a lineup with James Harden running the point and either Joel Embiid or especially Paul Reed at the center. How about prioritizing shooting? Tucker can do that too, and play one of the frontcourt spots, potentially even center, next to Georges Niang and Danuel House. Really, the only lineup the Sixers may want to avoid using Tucker in is one based on flying up the court with Maxey at the controls but come on, the 37-year-old isn’t going to be playing 36 minutes a night like his 21-year-old counterpart; he can sit those minutes out no problem… at least during the regular season.

You see, while Tucker will help out the Sixers this fall and winter, he’s really more of a spring/summer sort of guy who comes in and gets up for extended action in the postseason than a regular season minutes eater who provides moral support in May. That is when Tucker will be filling in for Niang if his shots aren’t falling, playing in place of Thybulle if his shots aren’t falling, or picking up the slack for Reed if he gets into foul trouble.

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There’s no doubt about it; P.J. Tucker is a big-time addition worthy of losing a second-round pick in, like, 2025, 2026, or even 2027 if Adam Silver and the NBA continue to #HateTheProcess. He can play and defend multiple positions, fill a 3-and-D role, and provide the Philadelphia 76ers with the two-way grit they’ve desperately been looking for. Why? Because if the duo of Joel Embiid and James Harden are going to be the NBA’s villains, they need their version of a henchman with a long and varied resume.