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Houston Rockets early season review: P.J. Tucker

By Hasan Hindi
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 26: PJ Tucker #17 of the Houston Rockets goes up for a shot defended by Avery Bradley #11 of the Los Angeles Clippers and Montrezl Harrell #5 in the first half at Toyota Center on October 26, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 26: PJ Tucker #17 of the Houston Rockets goes up for a shot defended by Avery Bradley #11 of the Los Angeles Clippers and Montrezl Harrell #5 in the first half at Toyota Center on October 26, 2018 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
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Even with a slow start by the Houston Rockets, there has been one player consistently good for the squad.

In his first year with the Houston Rockets, P.J. Tucker finished the 2017-2018 campaign averaging a split of 6.1 PPG/5.6 RPG/39.0 FG%. He also shot 37.1% from behind the arc. His low FG% was due to his shot distribution being highly concentrated from the 3 pt line. 70.3% of his shots were 3 pt FG attempts!

Despite the low FG%, P.J. Tucker was a breath of fresh air for this team when D’Antoni realized mid-season last year that Tucker was the team’s better option at PF going forward vs. Ryan Anderson. Tucker is by far the team’s most versatile defender and displayed this early on his career with other teams he played for by defending the opposing team’s best player.

After a slow start for the Rockets in the 2018-2019 season, the team is still somewhat struggling with a .500 record. One player that has remained consistent throughout the season, however, was P.J. Tucker. Below are summarized key points on what Tucker has done effectively for the Rockets along with what areas of improvement that are needed for him to take his game to the next level:

The Right Corner 3

Tucker’s role on offense has been simplified to space the floor for Harden and Paul to create opportunities for him to shoot uncontested 3-pointers. With that being said, Tucker has done his job amazingly well. He is currently shooting 45% from behind the arc which leads his teammates (38 of 85 attempts). Compared to the rest of the league, Tucker is ranked 15th in 3 pt FG% with at least 50 attempts (James Ennis is ranked 38th/ 40% 3ptFG%).

If we dig deeper into the numbers, however, Tucker has found a sweet spot from downtown, the Right corner 3 point shot. 31 of his 85 attempts from the 3 pt line have been from this spot, and Tucker is currently shooting a whopping 61.3% from there.

If we dig deeper into the numbers, however, Tucker has found a sweet spot from downtown, the Right corner 3 point shot. 31 of his 85 attempts from the 3 pt line have been from this spot, and Tucker is currently shooting a whopping 61.3% from there.

He ranks 1st in 3 pt FG% among NBA players with at least 15 attempts from this corner. In comparison to the left corner 3-ball, Tucker has attempted 28 shots and is still shooting pretty well, 39.3%. As the season goes on, Tucker needs to continue focusing on shooting from the corners in order for Houston to find their offense in a more efficient manner.

Rebounding

One of the biggest issues this team faces is getting consistently out-rebounded by their opponents. The number breakdown for offensive and defensive boards are shown below:

  • 13th in OREB at 10.5/ game
  • 30th in DREB at 29.9/game

This puts the Rockets at 28th in the league overall at 40.4 RPG. While Capela is ranked 11th in RPG (averaging almost 12 RPG), Tucker is only grabbing only half of this total (5.8 RPG). Although this issue seems more like a team struggle, Tucker will need to work on getting in good position to grab those boards that have been turning into second-chance opportunities for opponents. He may be an undersized forward relative to the rest of the league in that position, but he will need to play bigger in order for the Rockets to avoid losing winnable games.

Overall Impact

Tucker has logged the most minutes on this team and is averaging 35.8 MPG. With that being said, his NETRTG is currently a 3.2 which has been a bright spot for the Rockets. Among players on the Roster who are averaging at least 20 MPG, Tucker is first in NETRTG, 2nd in DEFRTG (106.9) and 3rd in OFFRTG (110.1). Having him out there has clearly been a positive for Houston and he is arguably the most important piece Houston has on both sides of the ball.

It is difficult to evaluate this team with where they are at this moment given the injury to Harden at the beginning of the season along with Melo playing meaningful minutes who is no longer with the team. It’s cyclic tendencies on the offense and defensive sides of the ball have been problematic, however, it has shown flashes of what they are capable of doing by beating quality teams during the 5 game win streak that was snapped by Detroit last Friday.

Next. Rockets sign Danuel House

As the season continues to play out, expect Tucker to continue to improve as this team works on figuring out how to play good basketball consistently.

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