Milwaukee Bucks: GM Jon Horst details decision to let P.J. Tucker walk

Jul 20, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 20, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

The most controversial decision of the Milwaukee Bucks’ offseason has revolved around letting P.J. Tucker walk in free agency.

After playing a key role for the team throughout the playoffs, having crept into the starting lineup for the final three rounds, it seemed inevitable that Tucker would be returning to the Bucks as he braced for free agency. Instead, he shocked everyone and signed a two-year deal with one of the Bucks’ biggest rivals in the Miami Heat. Everyone was rightfully shocked following the move, and ownership eventually hinted that the reasoning they let him go was due to luxury tax reasons as paying Tucker would have increased the team’s tax bill mightily.

Recently sitting down with The Athletic’s Eric Nehm (subscription required), Bucks GM Jon Horst gave some further insight into the Tucker situation. While he kept it brief, Horst mentioned how the team was grateful for Tucker’s contributions and that they would not be the new champions without him, but the team wanted to use their resources to improve in a different light. He noted that the team wanted to improve offensively and increase their versatility, seemingly referring to the slew of fresh faces the team brought in this offseason.

Do Jon Horst’s comments regarding P.J. Tucker’s departure make it an easier pill to swallow for the Milwaukee Bucks?

While Horst’s explanation will divide some, one area where he was spot on was his evaluation of Tucker on the offensive end. Across 23 postseason games, including 19 starts, Tucker averaged 4.3 points while shooting 38.8 percent from the floor and 32.2 percent from behind the arc. His contributions on offense were scarce throughout the title run, aside from the occasional triple from his sweet spot in the corner. The Bucks brought in Tucker for his defensive excellence, and although he lived up to the billing, wanting to improve the offense is a feasible idea from Horst.

The Bucks were notably sluggish on multiple occasions throughout the playoffs, and improving on that side of the ball was crucial during the offseason. Although the team brought in several great pieces offensively like George Hill, Rodney Hood, and Grayson Allen, the biggest question is if they will manage to stay afloat defensively. Horst mentioned wanting to be more versatile, which is what they brought Tucker in for. The veteran could guard multiple positions at a high level, notably taking on Kevin Durant for seven straight games in the East Semifinals.

Horst and the Bucks are banking on the newly-signed Semi Ojeleye to try and replicate Tucker’s defensive presence. The bulky forward has carved out a name for himself in this league due to his presence on the defensive end, and the Bucks will look to make the most of him. Yet, Ojeleye has the same problem as Tucker when it comes to his game offensively. Ojeleye has averaged a mere 3.5 points per contest for his career, and he will not suddenly flip the switch with the Bucks and develop into a double-digit scorer or anything close. The Ojeleye signing was a very good one by Horst and came far cheaper than re-signing Tucker would have been, but he is not on the same level defensively. One could even argue that his offense could be worse than Tucker’s.

Horst’s comments do not exactly make fans feel any closure after letting Tucker walk out the door for nothing after helping lead the team to their first title in 50 years. The debate as to whether or not the Bucks were justified in doing so will live on for years to come, and only time will tell if it comes back to bite them eventually.

Next. Milwaukee Bucks: 3 reasons why fans will never forget P.J. Tucker. dark

Although he is no longer with the team, fans will always remember Tucker’s time in Milwaukee.