P.J. Tucker – An International Journey
P.J. Tucker has taken a somewhat circuitous route to the NBA’s Houston Rockets. Tucker, a role player, is one of the many reasons that the Rockets had the league’s best record (65-17) this season. While James Harden, Chris Paul, and Eric Gordon receive many of the accolades, Tucker’s tenacity and toughness have helped the Rockets become one of the NBA’s best teams.
Unsung High School & College Star
Tucker grew up playing high school basketball in North Carolina. His talents earned him a scholarship to the University of Texas where in three seasons Tucker averaged 13.4 points & 8.2 rebounds a game. His 2005-06 season was the best of his career. Tucker averaged 16.1 points & 9.5 rebounds per game and was named the Big 12’s Player of the Year as a result.
Coming out of Texas in 2006, Tucker was not highly regarded. Eventually, he got drafted in the second round of the ’06 draft going No. 35 overall to the Toronto Raptors. Tucker did not play much as a rookie appearing just 17 games in Toronto before being sent to the NBA Development League’s Colorado 14ers. In March of 2007, Tucker was ultimately waived by Toronto beginning a journey that would take Tucker far from home.
An International Journey
He spent the summer of 2007 with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Summer League. Later, Tucker signed with Hapoel Holon of the Israeli Premier League. The 6-6 Tucker led Hapoel Holon to the league championship and was named its most valuable player. What followed was a career that took Tucker from Israel to the Ukraine, Italy, and Germany.
In 2009, Tucker re-signed with BC Donetsk of the Ukrainian Basketball Super League. When the team went bankrupt in March of the following year, Tucker went back to Israel and signed with Bnei HaSharon for the remainder of the season. After stints in Italy and German where he helped Brose win a league championship, Tucker got another break that allowed him to work his way back to the NBA.
He spent the summer of 2012 playing for the Phoenix Suns’ summer league team. He spent the next five seasons in Phoenix. His best season with the Suns was in 2013-14 when he started 81 games and averaged 9.4 points with 6.5 rebounds per game. After a back injury in 2016, Tucker was forced to come off the bench for the Suns in 2016-17.
Just after the All-Star break that season, Tucker was traded to Toronto where he also assumed a bench role. He played 24 games for the Raptors and even started a playoff game for Toronto that year. Last summer, Tucker signed with Houston inking a four-year, $32 million deal. His Rockets debut was a good one. Tucker scored 20 points, and his two late free throws provided the winning points. Tucker started all 17 of the Rockets’ postseason games this year. He averaged 8.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in the playoffs this year.