Grading the Houston Rockets this season: P.J. Tucker

Houston Rockets P.J. Tucker (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets P.J. Tucker (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Now in his ninth year in the league, P.J. Tucker has been one of the most consistent players on the Houston Rockets this season.

2018-19: 7.3 PTS, 5.8 REB, 1.2 AST, 39.6 percent shooting2019-20: 7.1 PTS, 6.9 REB, 1.6 AST, 43.3 percent shooting

Eye-opening Stat: 3.2 Corner 3-point attempts per game

Since the 2017-18 season, P.J. Tucker has established himself as one of the most reliable players in the league. The 34-year-old has played in all 228 possible regular season games over the course of the last three seasons, starting in 146 of those for the Houston Rockets.

Throughout his time on the team, Tucker has become one of the most stubborn, hard-nosed defenders in the NBA. His ability to guard multiple positions from just about anywhere on the floor has made his spot on the Rockets irreplaceable, especially considering Mike D’Antoni‘s recent shift to micro ball.

Now being asked to patrol the interior more than ever, P.J. is holding his ground against the bigger men in the league while also contributing on the glass. At 6.9 rebounds per game, Tuck is having his best season ever on the boards, besting his previous high of 6.5 in 2013-14.

Tucker has also been essential when it comes to offensive spacing in the new system. With James Harden and Russell Westbrook frequently being the playmakers and requiring the middle of the floor to get to work, Tucker’s propensity for hitting the corner three has been huge.

Related Story. 3 Reasons the Rockets must extend Tucker’s contract

P.J. is leading the league in attempts from both the right and left corners, taking 1.7 and 1.5 per game, respectively. Statistically, he’s been more effective from the left side, making 43.6 percent compared to 36.8 percent from the right corner. Having a shooter that can hit 40 percent of his corner threes overall is important in any system but absolutely crucial in this one.

Overall, the North Carolina native is shooting at the second-best rate on the team (37 percent) behind only Ben McLemore (39.5 percent) among players that have played more than 10 games. Players around the league recognize just how important Tucker is to the Rockets.

It’s not disrespect, Go look at Houston box score.. go look at the plus minus.. Pj always top 2.. He guards the best players, rebounds, best defensive communicator on the floor, knock down corner shooter and knows what he can and can’t do. No PJ no chance

— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) February 12, 2020

Grade: B +

After several early performances in which he was on fire from downtown, Tucker has slowed down when it comes to his shooting percentage from the outside. He’s also yet to develop a decent drive-and-finish move that could help in situations where teams are closing out quickly on him.

As current Laker Jared Dudley explained on Twitter in February, though, P.J. does a little bit of everything well. Offensively, he’s efficient and chooses his spots well while also knowing his limitations. Defensively, he has been a lockdown defender in crucial situations and communicates well to keep the team’s overall defense in line.

Grading Russell Westbrook this season. Next

Through 64 games, Tucker has scored in double figures 17 times, and the Rockets are 13-4 in those. It’s clear as day that the better P.J. plays, the more successful the team is. With the entire league likely to get weeks and possibly months to recover their bodies, look for P.J. to benefit from the hiatus and remain one of the most important pieces in the Rockets’ machine.