Houston Rockets forward PJ Tucker is known around the league as a nightmare on defense, yet he’s never been rewarded for it. While some may consider him immature in his criticism of Rudy Gobert, here’s why I consider it rational.
It’s well known that the Houston Rockets can score, as they finished the 2017-2018 season ranking 4th in the NBA in points per game and tied for 10th in the NBA for the 2018-2019 season.
However, the area they don’t get enough credit in is on the defensive end. The narrative of the national media is that a Mike D’Antoni coached team doesn’t apply effort on the defensive end. However, the Rockets have actually been stellar on the defensive end of the court, especially in the postseason.
Despite the much improved defensive efforts, the Rockets have not had a single player named to either the first or second all-defensive teams in either season. Futhermore, the Rockets have not even had a Defensive Player of the Year finalist in either season!
It’s known that PJ Tucker is a tenacious, dog of a defender who is both capable and willing to defend any position on the floor. In fact, this past season Tucker was asked to defend the opposing team’s best player and he has always stood the task. Despite this, PJ Tucker has never been named to an All-Defensive team in his career, and almost even found himself out of the league!
When matched up against the stars this season, Tucker has thrived. When guarding Kevin Durant, Tucker held Durant to 5-9 shooting on 44 possessions. While 5 for 9 sounds great, let’s not forget that we’re talking about Kevin Durant here. He would normally hoist many more shots than that, especially considering how high his field goal percentage was. This is a test to Tucker denying KD the ball and preventing him from feeling comfortable.
When matched against LeBron James, Tucker held James to 3-9 shooting. James averaged 27 points per game during the regular season. When Tucker was matched up against Kawhi Leonard, Tucker held Leonard to 5-15 shooting. Tucker ranked 7th in the league in total steals and was one of only 4 players with over 130 steals and at least 39 blocks.
I think you get the point. We’re talking about a player who limits the best in the league and never gets the credit.
On the flip side, Rudy Gobert is the 2-Time Defensive Player of the Year and has also been named First Team All Defense in each of the last 3 seasons. In addition, he has also been named to two All-NBA teams. Despite this, it was Gobert who was crying when he was not named to the Western Conference All-Star team this season, as he felt snubbed.
This is why PJ Tucker appears to have been throwing shade at Gobert during the NBA Awards show. Tucker is someone who defends the best players in the league, whether on the perimeter or in the post and never gets the national credit.
The same frustration Gobert felt from being snubbed this year is the same frustration Tucker has felt his entire career of having never been named to any All-Defensive team, or being named a finalist for any Defensive player of the year award. So from his standpoint, who are you to cry when you’ve been named to 2 All-NBA teams, twice named the Defensive Player of the Year, and been named to three First-Team All-Defense teams?
While I understand many may feel Tucker was wrong in insulting Gobert for crying after the All-Star snub, how else would you expect Tucker to react considering he’s been snubbed literally his entire career? In the same way we can’t tell Gobert how to react when being snubbed, we also can’t tell Tucker how to react from being snubbed.