Friday, October 06, 2006

PJ Tucker Watch, Episode #1

I am completely serious when I say that PJ Tucker was one of the ten best players available in the draft. I'm even more serious when I say that Tucker was the best University of Texas product that Bryan Colangelo acquired this off-season.

I think any hopes of TJ Ford developing into a miniature Jason Kidd have been extinguished. Ford's upside now appears to be Avery Johnson minus the defensive awareness. Ford will struggle, as he did in Milwaukee with Mo Williams, to get significant minutes ahead of Jose Calderon.

I'm not sure who exactly Tucker is competing against for minutes. Today's glowing article in the Toronto Star claims that Morris Peterson, Fred Jones, Anthony Parker, Joey Graham, and Tucker are all competing for minutes at small forward. I'm sure that's somehwat true, but at least Jones and Parker figure to get minutes at the 2, and, if Toronto wants to go small, Tucker could be effective backing up Bosh and Bargnani at the 4. Toronto will probably struggle early in the season as Sam Mitchell sorts through the various combinations of largely interchangable players at his disposal. The sooner Tucker moves ahead of the one-dimensional Joey Graham in the Raptors' rotation, the better.

Mitchell is beginning to figure this out:

"Joey can't — none of (the small forwards) can — relax when they come to practice, not with (Tucker) around. He's not smooth and he's not stylish in what he does. ... He's one of those guys, the game is getting ugly, and you may put him out there for three or four minutes and just say, `Just go throw your body around, see if you can get some offensive rebounds or tip-ins ...'"
Tucker's playmaking ability is underrated. He's similar to Ron Artest in that the brute strength of his offensive game overshadows his guile. Tucker possesses a nifty spin move and is a good passer. Last year, as Daniel Gibson struggled to run the Texas team, Rick Barnes ran more and more of the offense through Tucker.

Should Tucker ever develop an effective jump shot, he would become a near-unstoppable offensive force, overpowering small forwards and beating power forwards off the dribble. Unlike Artest, Tucker never figures to become enamored with the three-point shot and waste possessions in futile pursuit thereof.

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