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Could the PJ Tucker Acquisition Be Flying Under the Radar for the Miami Heat?

One of the primary surprises in NBA free agency this season was seeing PJ Tucker land in Miami, strengthening the Heat’s theme and weakening Milwaukee’s. But as surprising as that was, how come it seems as if this pick-up is being slightly overlooked?

Well, the answer to that question is quite clear.

Over the past two seasons, the starting front-court player next to Bam Adebayo has been an interesting discussion. The Meyers Leonard stretch had positive regular season aspects, but it was clear it wasn’t going to last through the post-season. This led to a trade deadline transition to Jae Crowder, who performed at a high level on both ends of the floor.

After that hot bubble stretch from Crowder, many began making instinctive observations about that starting 4 spot: a scorer is needed to maximize this team. In a lot of ways, that was correct. (Emphasis on *was*)

Kendrick Nunn was fantastic for Miami in many stretches, but one of the overarching issues was consistency. Miami didn’t really know what they were going to get from him on any given night, meaning the combination of an inconsistent 1 and a non-scoring 4 was never going to work.

But now, the conversation shifts.

Many seem to be upholding that same point about the acquisition of Tucker, but there aren’t any true parallels. Adding Kyle Lowry means that inconsistencies in the back-court will no longer be an issue. Of course everybody has off nights, but a player of Lowry’s caliber can counteract that with strong defensive play and offensive control with veteran leadership and facilitating capabilities.

That one major element makes the Tucker pick-up an obvious fit into what Miami is looking to do. And ultimately, it’s leading to this move flying under the radar quite a bit, which the Heat always love.

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He’s not going to be huge in the scoring column in the regular season. He may not even be that huge on the entire stat-sheet many nights aside from his minutes. But that type of player is what Miami needs with the emerging weapons on the current roster.

They need a guy who can semi-slow down players like Kevin Durant in a playoff series, allowing their defensive player of the year candidate, Adebayo, to do what he does best by constantly switching to cause major disruption on that end of the floor.

Tucker is Adebayo’s safety blanket, and it’s been quite some time since Adebayo has had that. A tough minded 4 who won’t back down. A versatile defender who can not only guard down like Trevor Ariza, but guard up when Adebayo ends up in isolation on the perimeter. If you want to let that type of guy fly under the radar, then I don’t know what to tell you.

That’s an Erik Spoelstra weapon if I’ve ever seen one. That entire description and dialogue is what Coach Spo will trust down the stretch game after game. Not to hit big shots on the offensive end or take total on-court control, but to be super sound on both ends in an understanding role to allow others to succeed.

When I asked Tucker after the signing about playing in that type of role next to Jimmy Butler specifically, he responded, “He’s always been one of those guys that everybody knows his competitive edge. He brings it every single night, and that’s the number one thing for me.”

And while Butler may be the headliner for that type of comment, there are multiple guys on this updated roster that quote could relate to. And well, one of those guys is PJ Tucker.

Ever since Butler joined the Heat, the roster has never been defined by a specific theme. Of course they had a team get to the NBA Finals without a certain theme, but it’s still never been apparent. Now, for the first time, this roster will be walking into opposing arenas with teams immediately knowing what they’re getting themselves into.

A feisty and tough group who will play in the mud for as long as it takes on the defensive end. Playing like that consistently in the regular season may wear them down, but that will be more of a playoff staple.

The point is that aside from Tucker embodying everything the Heat embody, plugging him into this group makes more sense than some think. It wasn’t as important to find a scoring threat at that spot, considering the Lowry pick-up and the hopeful Adebayo ascension.

They just need him to do the small things, and he will do just that. PJ Tucker may be flying under the radar due to his age and play-style, but for close Heat observers, that shouldn’t be the case.

 

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Breaking Down Miami’s Offense with Kyle Lowry and PJ Tucker

The Miami Heat had a pretty eventful start to free agency on Monday night, as they secured their expected target, Kyle Lowry, while also signing a guy who wasn’t really being discussed, PJ Tucker.

This piece will be a little different than usual. I’ve already dove into the strengths of Lowry in Miami here, which is why I’m going to highlight what Tucker can bring to the table. To touch on Lowry in a different light, I’m going to breakdown some of the different sets Miami can form around him to maximize his offensive abilites.

Those weren’t the only moves that Miami made, since they also retained Duncan Robinson, Dewayne Dedmon, Max Strus, and Gabe Vincent. And well, they’re not done yet.

But before more of that speculation continues, let’s hop right into what the newest acquisitions will look like in a Heat uniform…

Defensive Stopper

The first thing I want to mention about Tucker is something you will notice when evaluating all three of these traits: he’s simple. The Miami Heat essentially need simplicity at that four spot, since they needed a guy who doesn’t stray off from his role often and somebody that you know what you’re going to get from night to night.

Tucker seems to fit that description perfectly.

To start it off on the defensive end, Erik Spoelstra is beginning to load up on defensive weapons, and it eliminates the need for him to stick a power forward on opposing point guards. A focus on front-court pairings, in my opinion, was that they needed a guy who could size up defensively instead of sizing down.

Miami has their point of attack defender now, in Lowry, meaning some size down low even without the length is important.

Even though people may want to look at the stat-sheet of Kevin Durant in the Bucks-Nets series, Tucker did his best to make his life difficult, since that’s all you can do against Durant. He can defend the post on those guys, use his hands actively for steals, and is just a physical body that you trust on that end.

In a Heat sense, Tucker really made Jimmy Butler’s life difficult in that opening playoff series as well, which it’s hard to truly get under Butler’s skin in that type of fashion. Just with the defensive stuff alone, Tucker seems like a pure fit.

The Heat needed more leadership and toughness at that position, and they got just that yesterday.

Spot-Up Threat

Once again, Tucker is not going to shine in certain offensive clips due to him being such a “simple” player. He’s not going to have a high number in the PPG column, but that doesn’t mean he won’t maximize spacing with his corner presence.

In 20 regular season games with the Milwaukee Bucks this past season, he shot slightly under 40% from three on 1.7 attempts per game. If Miami can get the Jae Crowder three-point boost that they did in their finals run, many of these things change quite a bit.

Retaining Duncan Robinson is very important to remember in these discussions. Yes, Tucker can stretch the floor on offense or locate in different spots, but more importantly he’s an unselfish player who can takeover the Adebayo lite role.

Trying to pry away Adebayo from full DHO mentality can consist of Tucker’s big body screening for Robinson in the high pick and roll. The reason that’s important to note is that can shift into a pick and pop type of play-style, while Adebayo can become more of an off the catch player on the weakside in those sets.

Tucker is a guy Erik Spoelstra will 100% trust at the end of games. Not just to hit a clutch corner three. Not only to get a stop. But to make the right play and keep others accountable in the leadership role.

Bam Adebayo Complement

The last thing that should be mentioned about Tucker is that he won’t just be a corner spacer. The continued theme of this piece is offensive versatility and giving Erik Spoelstra some options. And well, Tucker is a guy he can move around for others to become more effective.

One way to do that is by sticking him in the dunker spot (great podcast by the way) so he can fight on the offensive boards a bit, and more importantly, complement Adebayo in the offensive flow.

Adebayo has had an interesting ride with front-court pairings over the last few years: Meyers Leonard to Jae Crowder to Andre Iguodala to Kelly Olynyk to Trevor Ariza. The thing that all of those guys have in common is that they’re purely supposed to be used on the perimeter.

Allowing Adebayo to roam a bit more or expand his range is much smoother when a Tucker type is on the roster to locate in the interior. I’d expect him to get moved around much more than previous fours, and that’s a good thing for the team’s formation of Adebayo taking the next offensive step.

How will Miami use Kyle Lowry in the Offense?

The Downhill Finder

Now, on the Lowry side of things, we already know what he’s going to bring to the offense. Some three level scoring, play-making burden, and off-ball capabilities. But how will they base certain offensive actions around him?

The first one involves a potential connection with Adebayo, and this isn’t just about the pocket pass. As teams begin to blitz Lowry a bit more down the line, that one ability creates constant 4 on 3 opportunities on the back-side.

Aside from that, take a look at the play above for an example of how it will be used. An Adebayo hand-off to Lowry will kick it off, and against a switching defense, that floating pass over the top is the go-to. Why is that important? Well, Miami finally has a guard who can make that “floating pass.”

When defenses mix it up and pick up the rolling Adebayo, that will allow Lowry to get into his strengths. He’s such a fantastic pick and roll reader, meaning he knows when he can flow into his quick trigger beyond the arc once the defense doesn’t immediately react.

This is just some stuff that will be used with the ball in Lowry’s hands, and that may not even be his biggest overall strength.

Guard Screening

I’ve touched on this before, but there’s a reason that Goran Dragic-Jimmy Butler PnR’s were their most effective offensive set last season to a degree. Either normal pick and rolls or inverted pick and rolls, it got Jimmy Butler flowing downhill one way or another.

He either used the angled screen to his advantage for a strong attack, or caught an over-head pass on the roll by the basket. The Lowry-Butler combo can take that to another level.

Butler isn’t the only guard screener that will be used though, since a Robinson-Lowry duo feels to be the more commonly used set moving forward.

Looking at the clip above, that’s where I see that combo working. Robinson flashing up for a screen before slipping it, but obviously it would look much different. There wouldn’t be that slight hesitance, as there was above, when it’s Robinson shifting to the wing, and that just makes Lowry’s job so much easier.

Guard screening will be their ticket to success in the offense, in my opinion, and they now have that correct bunch of guards to make it work.

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

As much as people want some different offensive scenery or a total revamp, that is just unrealistic. There’s a misconception about the dribble hand-off after Adebayo’s continued willingness to use it instead of score, but that action won’t just be eliminated. If anything, it will be expanded.

Robinson and Lowry on the same roster basically means DHO’s will need to be a semi-staple at times, but as mentioned before, it could be more of a Tucker designation.

Looking at the clip above, you can see Lowry’s ability to fire on the catch from anywhere on the floor off those hand-offs, and that one thing bends the defense greatly. In the off-ball role that I expect him to be in at times, he can be used as a threat off Adebayo and Butler play-making. Or better yet, he will be in the Robinson lite role when he exits the floor.

In the second clip above, it’s another example of keeping the main thing the main thing, as Pat Riley likes to say. They’re going to find ways to continually get him flowing downhill for hard drives and buckets, but the motion offense feels like it’ll benefit Lowry greatly.

As seen above, sending guys like Butler on streaks down the lane seems like the perfect way to utilize Lowry to the best of his abilities. These are just a few examples, but one thing this shows is that Spoelstra finally has some extra options to go to.

Although this move feels like the perfect way to propel Adebayo as a scorer or grab a close friend of Butler, the true winner here is Coach Erik Spoelstra.

 

Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

Visit them at EverythingTradeShows or call 954-791-8882