NBA free agency: P.J. Tucker to sign with 76ers on three-year, $33.2 million deal, per report

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P.J. Tucker will join the Philadelphia 76ers on a three-year, $33.2 million contract, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Tucker will reunite with James Harden, his former teammate with the Houston Rockets, and Daryl Morey, the general manager in Houston during Tucker’s time there. The 76ers will sign Tucker using the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, which they opened up after James Harden opted out of his current contract to re-sign at a lower cap number than his player option would have generated.

That sacrifice on Harden’s part will go a long way towards helping the 76ers get into the championship hunt. They saw how valuable Tucker is up close in their second-round series against the Miami Heat, Tucker’s team last season. Tucker will serve two valuable functions in Philadelphia. Obviously, his perimeter defense on opposing forwards will be critical, as will his corner 3-point shooting.

But perhaps the most valuable thing he’ll bring to Philadelphia is the ability to function as a small-ball center when Joel Embiid rests. The 76ers have never had that sort of player on their roster, and the minutes they’ve played without Embiid have been a problem throughout his entire career. Even when they signed Al Horford to a near-max contract, backup center was a problem area. In Tucker, they’ve seemingly solved that issue for the playoffs.

Tucker has been underpaid throughout his career. He spent his early years playing abroad trying to prove himself as an NBA talent, and even when he did, he’s never earned more than the mid-level exception. He hasn’t exceeded it here, but he’s earned himself some warranted long-term security. He and Morey couldn’t figure out an extension when they were in Houston, but they found a middle ground in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s gain is Miami’s loss. The Heat have lost a big part of their defensive identity, and will now pivot as they attempt to improve a team that came one win short of the NBA Finals. It won’t be easy, but the Heat have done this before. Philadelphia added a significant piece here, but Miami will surely find talent of its own, and if they have a postseason rematch, it should be an even better series than we got last season.

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