Milwaukee Bucks: Why P.J. Tucker is essential to running it back next season

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 20: (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 20: (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Bucks long made a priority to pursue and eventually acquire P.J. Tucker midway through their championship run this season.

The vision of what the Bucks’ front office held about Tucker and how he can make his imprint on the Bucks as a tough, hard-nosed defensive specialist was certainly realized as they leaned on him for the bulk of their chase to a championship. And if the Bucks are keen on defending their title, Tucker will surely factor into their plans for this offseason to maintain championship-caliber roster.

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Tucker is set to re-enter free agency in less than a week’s time and based on what Tucker proved with the Bucks upon arriving in Milwaukee near this year’s trade deadline, he’ll have no shortage of suitors pining for his services.

Even with concerns over his age, his declining athleticism and overall durability, Tucker put those concerns to bed as he helped the Bucks’ newfound toughness, steel and resiliency.

Doing so while filling in for the injured Donte DiVincenzo, whom the Bucks lost midway through their first round series with the Miami Heat, Tucker finished with the highest net rating of any Bucks player this postseason at +8.6 points per 100 possessions, per

Milwaukee Bucks have to prioritize re-signing P.J. Tucker this offseason

Given his importance, vocal leadership and overall influence in the Bucks’ defensive evolution, Tucker stands right alongside Bobby Portis for the Bucks’ biggest free agents this offseason.

Working in the Bucks’ favor, though, towards retraining Tucker compared to say someone like Portis, and to a lesser extent with Bryn Forbes after both have declined their player options, is the fact that the Bucks have Tucker’s Bird rights.

With that, the Bucks can exceed the salary cap to re-sign him and that’s not an insignificant factor to keep in mind, considering the Bucks’ championship eventually vaulted them in the luxury tax due to Jrue Holiday’s championship bonuses going into effect.

That’s certainly what the Bucks’ ownership is willing to live with this year after making this title run, but the looming reality of being a tax repeater in the coming years will test just how much they want to spend. Especially when their top-line trio of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Holiday and Khris Middleton are all locked in on big-time contracts moving forward.

Being able to go over the cap is not only essential to re-sign Tucker to a worthwhile deal without having to use any of their $5.9 million mid-level exception, but it will likely also ensure the Bucks will be in the tax again next season.

Not only that but negotiations will surely be interesting with the 36-year-old who still showed he’s an impactful member on a championship team. If you remember before Tucker first arrived to Milwaukee during this season, Tucker had reportedly turned a two-year, $17 million extension from the Houston Rockets before everything blew up within the organization and the locker room last season, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

"“The Rockets thought they were close to signing Tucker to a two-year extension for $17 million with $10 million guaranteed, sources said, but the Houston front office balked after Tucker’s camp countered with a proposal for a fully guaranteed two-year deal worth $24 million.”"

P.J. Tucker is essential to the Milwaukee Bucks with Donte DiVincenzo sidelined

The Bucks will be especially careful not to let negotiations go sour with Tucker for the simple fact that the reason Tucker became even more important to Milwaukee is still relevant going into the start of next season.

There’s no reported timetable for DiVincenzo, whom Tucker replaced, and considering that he’s still in a walking boot and bound to a scooter as seen in the Bucks’ championship celebration, it’s going to be a lengthy recovery for the 24-year-old. Seeing that Pat Connaughton is the only experienced wing on the Bucks’ roster that could factor in the Bucks’ depth chart, Tucker is as important to the Bucks’ title defense as he was throughout this run.

Tucker hasn’t tipped his intentions in any direction, but he’s been very vocal about the purpose and role he’s found since arriving to Milwaukee, something that’s only been heightened since winning the championship:

"“When I saw Jrue (Holiday) got traded to Milwaukee, I was like, yeah, that’s it. Like I knew I was going to get traded and my crew was talking about how Milwaukee is where I was going to go. For it to actually happen was, like, whoa, this is crazy. Like we saw this. Before it actually happens is one thing, but for it to happen is still hard to process, honestly.”"

Next. 3 reasons why the Bucks can run it back next season. dark

Again, Tucker should have no shortage of interest from contenders around the league, including the teams that Tucker and the Bucks edged past on their way to a title this season. But the Bucks would be very prudent to keep their defensive stopper on the wing within the fold.