The 2021-2022 NBA season didn’t end the way the Miami Heat had hoped. However, P.J. Tucker was huge for the team throughout the season. He did everything the Heat asked of him and more. Tucker guarded the best opposing player, hit timely corner three-pointers, and set huge screens for Miami’s shooters. He also played a huge role in Miami staying on top of the East when Bam Adebayo was sidelined. During Adebayo’s absence, Tucker displayed some playmaking ability that wasn’t shown as much throughout his whole career. At the Heat’s season-ending press conference, Heat president Pat Riley called him a “cornerstone player” and told made it clear he wants him back. Now, there are reports that Tucker could be on the way out.
The Philadelphia Inquirers Keith Pompey and New York Times’ Marc Stein have both reported that Tucker is likely signing with the Philadelphia 76ers. Pompey went as far as to say that the move is a “done deal”. Tucker opted out of his $7.4 million option for next season last week. He’s coming off a good season where he averaged 7.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. At age 37, he continued to display his defensive versatility and ability to hit the corner three-pointers.
Details of a Potential Deal
Tucker is reportedly seeking a three-year deal that’ll pay him $30 million. However, with Tucker turning 37 back in May, teams using their exceptions are limited to signing a player for more than three years because of the NBA’s Over-38 rule. The 76ers are reportedly willing to do that. However, they currently cannot offer the contract at the moment. The 76ers can currently offer the $6.4 million mid-level exception after acquiring De’Anthony Melton. They needed James Harden to opt out of his contract. He did and should re-sign for less than his max contract to create space. Another way of reaching the space needed to sign Tucker would be to move on from some of their other rotational pieces like Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, and George Niang. This all would have to be done without taking any salary back.
Miami’s Offer to Tucker
On the other hand, Miami can re-sign him using the non-bird exception. According to Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman, the Heat are willing to offer the non-bird exception which starts at $8.4 million over three years. This offer will be $27 million over three years. Miami also has their full $10.3 million mid-level exception, but that’ll push Miami into the hard cap situation. By using the full mid-level exception, Miami wouldn’t be able to retain some of its free agents or go after outside free agents. If Tucker agrees to the non-bird exception, it’ll allow Miami to keep some of its free agents while using a little of the mid-level exception to sign an outside free agent.
Despite the reports of Tucker leaving, free agency hasn’t started yet. The free agency period is set to open tonight at 6 pm eastern time. Nothing is set in stone until a deal is officially agreed upon. This gives Miami more time to sell Tucker on re-signing under the non-bird exception. Tucker is a huge part of the Heat’s plans and losing him will be tough. Currently, Miami is very limited in its frontcourt rotation. They need a reliable frontcourt partner for Adebayo. Will Tucker be back in Miami? Or will he join Harden in Philadelphia?
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Main Image Credit: via Miami Herald