The biggest loss the Miami Heat suffered this offseason was the departure of former team starter P.J. Tucker.
Last season, Tucker started in 70 of the 71 regular season games that he suited up for and all 18 playoff games that he played in. He was a hard-nosed defender on that side of the ball and served as a valuable outlet on the offensive side of things.
The Heat entered the 2022 offseason with goals of re-signing the big man, but those plans came up short. Tucker ended up accepting a multiyear deal from the Philadelphia 76ers. During his first media day with the Sixers on Monday, Tucker declared that he had been trying to get to Philadephia for over a year.
It is unclear if his words were meant to inspire the fans of his new team, be a slight to the Heat or both.
PJ Tucker on making the move to Philadelphia: "Honestly, me and James were trying to come the year before"
— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) September 26, 2022
He is, of course, referencing his longtime teammate James Harden in the quote. Tucker and Harden played together on the Houston Rockets for a period of time and wound up making it to Philly in different ways.
Harden was traded to the Brooklyn Nets during the 2020-21 season. However, the relationship between him and team soured last season, and he was traded to the 76ers prior to the trade deadline.
As for Tucker, he signed with the Heat last summer. If he wanted to join the 76ers the “year before,” it is unclear why he did not sign with the team last summer.
In the end, the past is in the past, and while the Heat would have surely loved to retain Tucker, him leaving is another reminder that the NBA is, above all, a business. How will the Heat overcome the loss? That riddle has yet to be solved.
Earlier this summer, youngster Haywood Highsmith expressed confidence that he can replace Tucker in the lineup, and a team insider recently discussed his “sneaking suspicion” that the team will try to maximize Highsmith.
Still, that is all far easier said than done. Last season, Highsmith started just one game and played in 19 total contests for the Heat. In those games, he averaged 2.3 points and 1.4 rebounds per game. He shot just 34.8 percent from the field and 32.1 percent from deep.
Obviously, those numbers are going to have to improve significantly if he wants to try to replace Tucker’s production on the court.