Assessing the reality of a reunion between Milwaukee Bucks, P.J. Tucker

MIAMI, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 08 (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 08 (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Following their title-winning season, the Milwaukee Bucks made the controversial decision to let P.J. Tucker walk to a conference rival in the Miami Heat during free agency.

It was a cost-saving move from ownership that certainly stirred up the fanbase, as players such as Tucker do not grow on trees. The Bucks found this out shortly into the 2022-23 season as Tucker’s absence was felt and loomed over the team all year long. With the season now over, the Bucks will be looking for a player like Tucker that can bring versatility, tough defense, and perimeter shooting to strengthen their roster this offseason. Well, rather than the Bucks pursuing a player like Tucker, many have clamored for the team to target Tucker himself after The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported on Monday that the forward plans to opt out of his current deal with the Heat and test NBA free agency. While the idea of bringing Tucker back to Milwaukee is enticing, there are some question marks as to whether or not there is any legitimate shot of it happening.

Assessing the reality of a reunion between Milwaukee Bucks, P.J. Tucker

On the court, there is no question that P.J. Tucker can still contribute at a high level on any team in this league. Even at 36-years-old, the forward had one of his most productive seasons to date by averaging 7.6 points while shooting a blistering 41.5 percent from 3-point land, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. It is certainly not controversial to say that Tucker would be a seamless fit for the Milwaukee Bucks, given that it has already been proven. There are no questions in that regard, as Tucker would help patch up several sizeable holes on this roster. The questions surrounding the legitimacy of Tucker returning to Milwaukee primarily stem from how the two parties went their separate ways last offseason and whether those hard feelings still loom large.

The abrupt split between the Milwaukee Bucks and P.J. Tucker following the championship run was far from the prettiest. It was evidently clear to see why all signs pointed to Tucker returning, which left the fanbase stunned when he departed. Tucker himself gave insight as to what happened in a recent interview with Marc J. Spears of Andscape, sharing how he felt disrespected by how the Bucks treated him in 2021 free agency.

"Look at Andre Iguodala. He’s right back at Golden State. He left and was in the shade for a minute, but he is right back. I feel like every player wants that. That home where everybody loves you and you can go back and it’s love. I felt like I was building that [in Milwaukee]. And then to win it, it was like, ‘Oh, yeah, for sure.’ And they just weren’t going over the luxury tax. It just is what it is. They love you and whatever, whatever, but they weren’t going to go over it. They felt like they could replace me, and they did replace me.Even as a vet being around, it’s like, ‘All right, you f—ing replaced me. Cool.’ You figure it out and that’s just what I had to do. And for me, it wasn’t even about money. It was more about respect because they basically told me to go find an offer and they would match it. After hearing that for me, I’m not coming back even if I had to take less money. To me, that was disrespectful. So, as soon as they said that, I told my agent Andre [Buck], basically, ‘We are moving on, whatever we get out of that, that’s what we’re doing.’"

Tucker’s words seemingly signal that a bridge was burned when he decided to leave the Bucks, and understandably so. The veteran felt disrespected by their offering after he helped the team win their first championship in over 50 years, and they felt like they could somehow replace him if he left, which had to sting. Would Tucker even consider working with a front office and ownership group that he felt disrespected him to such a degree? It does not seem too likely.

The financial side of things also makes it quite tough to envision Tucker returning to Milwaukee. Tucker opted out of a $7.6 million deal for the 2022-23 season, so he will likely be seeking more money and potentially a longer-term deal. The Bucks cannot offer Tucker a significant amount of money, and the Heat would be able to exceed any offer financially regardless. Even if the Bucks offered Tucker a hefty contract in free agency, some would justifiably question whether he would even consider it due to how ugly things ended less than a year ago.

Although the chances of Tucker returning to Milwaukee are slim, it is still not entirely impossible. After all, the forward did detail in the interview with Spears that Milwaukee felt like a place where he could build something special, and he has never shied away from the fact that the city will hold a special place in his heart forever. Though Tucker was vocal with his displeasure as to how he was treated by Milwaukee’s front office, perhaps he would be willing to let bygones be bygones at this point almost a year later and consider returning to the city where he won his lone title. However, that is the one sliver of hope that could possibly fuel any hope of Tucker returning to Milwaukee. Right now, it seems like Tucker will be returning to Miami to continue his career, but everyone also said the same thing about Milwaukee after the 2021 title.

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Stay tuned to see if the Milwaukee Bucks potentially make a run at P.J. Tucker this offseason.