P.J. Tucker picked a good time to have a breakout season.
In his second year with the Phoenix Suns, the Texas product started all 81 games in which he appeared, and he put up career-best numbers of 9.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 30.7 minutes per game. He also shot a solid 38.7 percent from behind the three-point arc.
The 6-foot-6 swingman enters the offseason as a restricted free agent and in a good position to earn a pay raise going forward.
While on the Burns & Gambo show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday, Tucker talked about how well the Suns organization and fans have treated him, and he shared some of his plans in free agency.
“I love Phoenix, and I hope to be back in Phoenix,” he said. “Phoenix has been my home the last two years, and it’s been awesome. I love everybody in the organization — top to bottom. (The) front office has been great, and they’ve shown me so much love. So, it’s always near and dear. But it’s a business and different things can happen, so we’ll see what happens in the next couple weeks.”
Tucker confirmed that he has heard the Memphis Grizzlies are interested in his services, but he said it’s basically hearsay at this point.
“Free agency, being in this position, there’s so much going on,” the three-year NBA pro said. “Before it happens, you don’t know — because nobody can talk to anybody until a certain date. So you don’t know for sure what’s going on.”
The Grizzlies are likely uncertain about their stability at the small forward position, as the spot was mostly occupied by a pair of 34-year-olds, Tayshaun Prince and Mike Miller, in the 2013-14 season. Quincy Pondexter emerged as a solid bench player two seasons ago for Memphis, but he only played 15 games last year before suffering a stress fracture in his foot and undergoing surgery.
If the Grizzlies really are looking at signing Tucker, it means they’re searching for someone younger to fill the role that Prince has played for the team over the past season and a half.
When asked if he’s interested in Memphis making an offer, Tucker replied, “I hope.”
The Raleigh, N.C., native made just under $900,000 in 2013-14, and his performance last season likely will earn him a raise on his next contract — wherever he ends up playing.
Before you get concerned that Tucker is ready to pack his bags and head out of town, the 29-year-old swingman further explained his strategy in free agency.
“I’m restricted, so regardless of what happens, Phoenix gets a chance to match,” Tucker said. “So the more suitors, the more chances you have to make more money, maybe.”
Although he plans to entertain offers from other teams, Tucker reiterated how much of an impact Phoenix has had on him.
“To be in Phoenix is the key,” he said. “I want to be in Phoenix. We’ve grown so much here. I’ve grown so much here. We’ve grown as a team. The priority, probably, is to come back to Phoenix. But as I’ve said, it is a business and different things may happen.”
Phoenix does have three first-round picks in the upcoming draft and there are small forwards like Luol Deng available in free agency, so the team has options if somebody else makes Tucker an offer that the Suns don’t want to match — or if they feel they can find a better player at the position.
Tucker said he’s not exactly sure what the mindset is inside the Suns’ front office at the moment.
“They may think that way [that they can find a better option at small forward], they may not. I don’t know,” he said. “I think they definitely want me to come back, and it’d be awesome to come back. But if they feel like they can upgrade, or they can have another situation that may work out for them, then it may be different.
“For me, it’s just hanging on, waiting these weeks out and seeing what happens.”