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A year ago, P.J. Tucker was a forgotten name in the NBA. He starred in college at Texas before being drafted with the 35th pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, but a poor attitude resulted in just 17 games played and 83 total minutes on the court for the Raptors before he found himself out of a job and out of the league.

Tucker spent the next several years overseas, improving both his game and his attitude before returning to the United States last summer to give the NBA another go. Phoenix gave him a shot on the Summer League Suns, and he parlayed that into first a roster spot, then a rotation spot, and finally a spot in the starting lineup.

Grading Tucker with respect to the numbers

The per game numbers aren't anything special, but the rebounding, solid field goal percentage and positive assist-to-turnover ratio are all something the Suns didn't really get from their other wings not named Jared Dudley.

Expanding his numbers over 48 minutes, Tucker was above average for small forwards in offensive rebounding, 2-point field goal percentage and wins produced. He wasn't a major offensive threat in terms of scoring, but he played to his strengths and didn't try to do too much.

Again, the numbers aren't outstanding, but they are solid for a rotation wing whose strengths are hustle and defense. I'll give him a C+.

Grading Tucker with respect to his peers

There wasn't much expected of P.J. Tucker coming into the year, but looking at his competition on the wing, it's not hard to see how he earned his way into the rotation. The numbers aren't very pretty, but take a look anyway.

Tucker finished first in rebounds (offensive rebounds in particular) and field goal percentage, second in starts, minutes, steals, assist-to-turnover ratio, true shooting percentage and win shares. He was last in points at under 10 points per 36 minutes, but despite that he was still second in offensive win shares - three times as many as Marcus Morris who is third on that list. Tucker isn't a scorer and his lack of a reliable 3-point stroke hurts spacing, but even so he takes good shots, cuts to the basket and crashes the offensive glass hard. He's also the best defensive player of the group.

Looking at the numbers, it's pretty clear that Tucker was the second best overall wing on the roster this year behind only Jared Dudley. Second best earns him a B grade from me.

Grading Tucker with respect to expectations

Tucker was a free agent who made the team through his summer league performance. He wasn't even a sure bet to make the roster. So the expectations were pretty much non-existent. More heralded players like Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson and Shannon Brown were expected to handle the wing minutes alongside Jared Dudley. Yet it was Tucker who earned those minutes while the other three each spent significant time riding the bench.

I'm going to go with an A+ here.

Conclusion and overall grade

Regardless of where he was playing last year, P.J. Tucker has proven himself as an NBA player. He shouldn't have to worry about heading overseas to find a job next year. His contract with the Suns is not guaranteed for next season, but considering he's set to make less than $900,000, there's no reason not to keep him around.

He does have limitations and likely isn't going to improve all that much, but what he is is an NBA rotation player who brings hard-nosed defense and rebounding. Ideally, Tucker would not be asked to play such a large role as he did this year. He's probably best as a 15-minute-per-game player coming off the bunch, and if the Suns can acquire enough talent for him to play that role, he'll provide even more value than he did this year.

P.J. Tucker went from completely off the NBA radar to one of the better players on the Suns' roster (for the moment, ignore what that says about the Suns). For that, he gets an A from me.

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A truly amazing day unfolded on Yahoo! Sports columnist and crack NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

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Check out the Woj feed and watch for more.

Former Suns front office executive and current ESPN columnist Amin Elhassan gives some great takes on the ol' twitter as well.

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Check out the whole feed for more really awesome insight into the NBA.

There are other rumors too:

  • Howard wants to play with Chris Paul, maybe on the Clips
  • Clips might want to send Griffin, Bledsoe to Lakers for Howard

Funny how all the rumors are out of LA and Boston, the two markets with the most NBA championships in the history of the league. I'm not saying these are crazy attempts to drive up readers, but none of these trades even passes muster in a fantasy league unless it's Happy Hour (6 hours ago).

PHOENIX – “I embrace it. We’re different players. Demeanor is what sets him apart. I think we share that demeanor.” – C.J. McCollum on the comparisons between himself and small-school guard and...

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With a few days off to recalibrate their collective basketball minds and focus, the Phoenix Suns are back at it with another group workout featuring more potential late first round prospects and a wildcard.

Today's workout featured Pittsburgh center Steven Adams (No. 17 on the Big Board), N.C. State guard Lorenzo Brown (31), Bucknell center Mike Muscala (32), Illinois guard Brandon Paul (34), Texas point guard Myck Kabongo (66), and Missouri center Alex Oriakhi (71).

Adams may be a reach at No. 5 for the Suns and will not be available for the No. 30 pick, but much like Mason Plumlee and the point guards this is due diligence on the teams part. If they are able to acquire another pick in the mid-to-late lottery then Adams is an option to replace Marcin Gortat in the long-term. His skill level is on par with Gortat as a raw athlete that will be at his best with a play-making point guard feeding him the ball at the rim.

Every other player in this workout can be had at the No. 30 pick and offers a unique skill-set. As GM Ryan McDonough has stated numerous times, the team will try to avoid duplicating positions with the two first round picks.

As a converted point guard Brown has the ability to score and distribute the ball with his great size and feel for the position. Paul is another option at the two with the potential to score the ball in bunches like a Jamal Crawford, but can also shoot the team out of a game like Shannon Brown. Kabongo is athletic, long, and sees the floor well, but is not polished or great at any one thing.

For the Suns in particular looking at Muscala at No. 30 or Oriakhi at No. 57 would add depth to the front-court. Oriakhi is a tank with NBA level strength and toughness.

Here is a scouting take on the prospects:

***The Suns have now had in 13 point guards, 10 shooting guards, 7 small forwards, 12 power forwards, and 9 centers so far

***Next workout is scheduled for this Tuesday

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Finding a starting-quality NBA center is difficult. The Phoenix Suns have one in Marcin Gortat, but the 29-year old Polish Machine is a quickly becoming an old man on a rebuilding team. Factor in his expiring $7.75 million contract for the 2013-14 season, and you've got a player the Suns need to replace (or extend) quickly.

With the Suns in full rebuild mode, their center does not need to be an All-Star caliber player. In fact, the Suns really just need a guy who can play solid minutes, is productive, and is preferably tradeable when the time comes.

For the past two years, and even for the next year, that guy has been Marcin Gortat. But his age and contract situation will continue to eat away at his trade value for the next twelve months. Sure, it's possible a team might give up a future #1 at next year's trade deadline for Gortat in order to make a playoff push. But that would be a first-rounder from a playoff team - likely a pick in the 20s. If you can get a 2013 lotto pick right now, why not do it?

The latest rumors have several teams wanting to trade their 2013 lottery pick for established talent that can help them make the playoffs this season. Cleveland, Washington, Portland are among them. Portland, in particular, seems a clean fit for Gortat.

Logic dictates that the Suns would use that second lotto pick on a young center with high upside (after using their own for a wing). Problem is, the centers with the highest upside won't be playing 30+ minutes per game in 2013-14, and maybe not even in 2014-15. Alex Len and Nerlens Noel might not be fully healthy for another year, at which point they will still be growing into their bodies. Rudy Gobert has all the dimensions you want, but he needs even more time to develop than Len and Noel. Cody Zeller may best fit at PF some day. The other first-round center prospects may never see 30+ minutes a night in their careers.

Still, the Suns are best served by drafting a young center with the highest upside.

If that's the case, who mans the middle for the Suns in the meantime? With Gortat gone and Jermaine O'Neal off to a playoff team (most likely), someone needs to fill those 48 minutes per contest. You can count me among those who would rather not go into the season with Markieff Morris and Luis Scola on that depth chart for minutes in the pivot. While the Suns may want to stay in the hunt for the #1 pick in 2014, they don't want to do it by winning 10 of 82 games.

Enter Nikola Pekovic.

The 27-year old Pekovic is the starting center for the Minnesota Timberwolves, and this summer is a restricted free agent. He played 62 games in the 2012-13 season, putting up 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds. Pekovic is a solid, lumbering rebounder who gets his offense around the rim.

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On the surface, you'd think this is the last guy the Suns should sign to man the pivot.

  • He's going to be 28 next year, just a year younger than Gortat. Why not keep Gortat if we're going for middle age?
  • Pekovic is good enough to make the Suns respectable, which would hurt their 2014 lotto chances
  • Pekovic will demand too much money for a rebuilding team to spend

These are good reasons not to even look in Pekovic's direction. However, as I said before, the Suns need someone to man the pivot.

If you stay with Gortat, you have to stay with him for a good five more seasons (this upcoming season, plus a 4-year free agent contract to keep him in the valley). With Pekovic, the commitment would only be 3-4 years from today.

Pekovic is a good center (16.3 points, 8.8 rebounds) but not spectacular. His Wolves teams barely broke the 30-win barrier with him as the main cog in the middle, so don't worry about losing too much draft position. With nothing of value in the middle, the Suns could win 10-15 games next year, and face a total mutiny from their fans.

If the money is right, say 3 years at $25 million like Omer Asik got last year or even 4 years at $40 million, then Pekovic is eminently tradeable whenever the Suns' younger center is ready for bigger minutes. Many teams want starting-quality centers. When the Suns are ready to acquire a star, having Pekovic as a trade chip is a good thing.

Why would the Wolves give up Pekovic, you ask? I don't know why. But the Suns won't be in bidding wars all summer for the other free agents out there, so it's okay to have their cap space tied up in an RFA offer for three days.

Trading Gortat for a lotto pick, drafting a young center to develop and signing a placeholder in Pekovic just might be the best plan for the Suns' center position this summer.

Poll
Should the Suns sign Pekovic this summer, if Gortat is gone?

  464 votes | Results

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