EuroCup Stepping Stones: P.J. Tucker

Jul 08, 2020 by Print
EuroCup Stepping Stones: P.J. Tucker

P.J. Tucker is the starting power forward on one of the strongest teams in the NBA thanks to his strong defense, selfless style and reliability. However, before he became a star in his native United States, Tucker shaped his professional game during a five-season career in Europe. After playing at the University of Texas - and winning Big 12 Conference Player of the Year honors in 2006 - Tucker was selected in the second round of the 2006 NBA Draft by Toronto and he split time between the Raptors and Colorado of the D-League in his first season of professional basketball.

Tucker headed to Europe in the summer of 2007 and landed with Hapoel Holon in Israel, where he averaged 14.6 points and 7.0 rebounds in helping the club to its only Israeli League title. He moved on to Ukrainian side Donetsk and continued to produce before heading back to Israel to finish the 2009-10 campaign. While he had played internationally with Donetsk in the EuroChallenge and VTB United League, Tucker took the next step in 2010-11 when he signed with Aris Thessaloniki of Greece to play in the EuroCup.

EuroCup experience

Tucker made a huge first impression in his EuroCup debut, scoring 28 points to go with 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals for an index rating of 35 in his first game against Azovmash Mariupol. He followed that up with a double-double (24 points, 10 rebounds) at Hapoel Gilboa Galil and added another double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) in Round 3 at Cedevita Zagreb. Tucker did not let up his second time through the group stage with 15 points and 6 rebounds at home against Cedevita before posting 18 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists at Azovmash. He concluded the regular season with 13 points and 5 rebounds versus Gilboa Galil in helping Aris reach the Last 16.

Tucker did not start the next stage as impressively with just 5 points and 5 rebounds versus Budivelnik Kyiv, but he did score in double figures in the next four games, including a 15-point, 15-rebound double-double at Budivelnik in Round 5. All told, Tucker averaged 14.9 points in 12 EuroCup games, the ninth-best scoring average that season. He also shot 47.6 percent on three-pointers to go with a third-best 7.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists for an average PIR of 18.2, which also ranked third in the EuroCup.

What came after

Tucker left Aris before the end of the 2010-11 season, finishing off the campaign in Italy with Montegranaro. But his impressive output in the EuroCup did not go unnoticed as Brose Baskets Bamberg signed him for the 2011-12 season in the EuroLeague. Tucker once again started hot in Germany as he collected 20 points and 5 rebounds in the season opener against Zagreb for a PIR of 24. That was his best game of the season for Bamberg, though he did register an 11-point, 13-rebound double-double against Unicaja Malaga in Round 8 and followed that with 9 points and 12 rebounds versus Zalgiris Kaunas. For the season, Tucker averaged 8.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 10 games. He also helped Bamberg win the 2011-12 German League title and was named the German Finals MVP.

That performance caught the eye of the NBA and Tucker moved back to the United States in 2012 to sign with Phoenix. He remained with Phoenix for four and a half seasons, proving to be one of the most reliable players in the league as he appeared in 320 of 328 regular-season games from 2012 to 2016. Tucker was traded back to Toronto in February 2017 and played in the NBA playoffs for the first time. He then signed with Houston in 2017 and played all 82 regular-season games in 2017-18, which was the season he moved into the starting lineup. Tucker has kept his place in the starting five over the past two seasons, in which he has not missed a single game. All told, Tucker has averaged at least 6.1 points and 4.4 rebounds in each of his eight NBA seasons while hitting 36.2% of his three-pointers.