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Houston Rockets: Why PJ Tucker needs a reduction in minutes

PORTLAND, OR - JANUARY 29: P.J. Tucker #17 of the Houston Rockets looks on during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on January 29, 2020 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - JANUARY 29: P.J. Tucker #17 of the Houston Rockets looks on during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on January 29, 2020 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Houston Rockets forward PJ Tucker has been playing a career-high 35 minutes per game this season, which could become a major problem by the time the playoffs get here. Here’s why this needs to be changed immediately.

We all know that Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni is known to play a fairly thin rotation, which unfortunately means he overplays his core guys. PJ Tucker has been the best example of this issue during the 2019-20 season.

The 34-year-old forward is playing a career high 35 minutes this season and has played at least 38 minutes in 14 of the Rockets’ 44 games this season. This is a disturbing number considering the fact that Tucker had a career-high of 18 such games during the entire 2018-19 season, meaning that Tucker is on pace to shatter that number.

In fact, Tucker is on pace for roughly 28 such games (give or take) barring an unforeseen change, which we can’t necessarily count on. It goes without saying but this is something that needs to change sooner than later considering that Tucker had only 42 such games through the first seven years of his career and he’s on pace to top that number in only two years.

It’s a mark of Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni’s stubbornness because he often plays Tucker at the reserve center position when he could simply play backup center Isaiah Hartenstein, who has performed well this season when given the opportunity.

This is obviously a lot of wear and tear for the forward who turns 35 in May and it’s something that could rear its ugly head during the postseason, as MDA has given Tucker a considerable uptick in minutes during the postseason in each of the The Sneaker King’s first two seasons with the Houston Rockets.

During the 2017-18 season, Tucker went from 27.8 minutes per game during the regular season to 33.5 minutes per contest during the postseason, which isn’t the only time that happened. During the 2018-19 season, Tucker went from an average of 34.2 minutes during the regular season to 38.7 minutes during the postseason.

Although Tucker has been quite the iron man, this season has been a tad bit different as we’ve seen signs of the wear and tear, as Tucker has been banged up on multiple occasions of only the first half of the season. We’ve seen Tucker’s play drop off as of late, as he’s gone 25-94 (26.6 percent) from long-range dating back to the Houston Rockets’ December 7th victory over the Phoenix Suns.

It’s clear that Tucker is being bothered by something and it’s hard to not chalk it up to fatigue. If that is the case, MDA needs to do something about that immediately. Sure the All-Star break is coming but the Rockets have had so many days of rest in between games this season that it’s hard to imagine that being the solution for Tucker’s woes.

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This is a rather easy thing to fix, as it could be as simple as pulling Tucker out and putting in his replacement but the reality is that D’Antoni doesn’t seem to trust the younger guys, which has turned Tucker into the backup center. Whatever it is, MDA holds the key to the solution and it’s something that needs to be fixed rather quickly because Tucker’s game is starting to drop off on the offensive end as well.

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