P.J. Tucker Rumors: Jimmy Butler Wants Forward to Return to Heat Amid 76ers Buzz

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVJune 29, 2022

BOSTON, MA - MAY 27: Grant Williams #12 of the Boston Celtics plays defense on P.J. Tucker #17 of the Miami Heat during Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals on May 27, 2022 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Jimmy Butler is reportedly lobbying behind the scenes for P.J. Tucker to re-sign with the Miami Heat when the free-agency period begins.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported Wednesday that the Heat haven't "given up hope" Tucker will return on a three-year, $27 million deal. Miami has reportedly balked at the idea of using its full mid-level exception—which would be around $33 million over three years—on Tucker.

The Philadelphia 76ers have been mentioned as the top potential suitor for Tucker and are expected to offer their full mid-level.

Tucker averaged 7.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game this season while continuing to display locker room leadership and on-court toughness. Miami teammates raved about his presence.

"I love P.J., man. I'll play with P.J. seven days a week and twice on Sundays," Heat teammate Udonis Haslem told Couper Moorhead of NBA.com in December. "What doesn't he do? He might lead us in offensive rebounds. He comes flying in. Giving us extra possessions. He's taking charges. He switches pick-and-rolls. He accepts every matchup. He never complains about plays. He only complains about bad defense. That's the kind of teammate that I want."

While Tucker brings off-the-charts intangibles, it's fair to wonder whether offering a fully guaranteed three-year contract to a 37-year-old would be prudent. He's not a strong enough shooter or offensive player to justify keeping him on the floor if his defense begins to slip.

There is only so far a non-star can regress before they become a liability. The final year of Tucker's contract—perhaps even two—could get iffy with even a little bit of slippage.

That said, the market has clearly dictated a salary range for Tucker; soon, he can decide where he wants to play.

As a practical matter, the difference between $27 million and $33 million isn't as much as it appears. Pennsylvania's state income tax of 3.1 percent would shave around $1 million from his salary. If Tucker were to live across the bridge in New Jersey, as some players do, that figure would be even higher.

Florida does not have a state income tax. All things essentially being equal, the decision will come down to where Tucker wants to play.