2022 NBA Free Agency Rumors: Could Bulls pursue PJ Tucker?

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NBA Free Agency Rumors: Could Bulls pursue PJ Tucker? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

On Monday, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Miami Heat forward P.J. Tucker plans to opt out of his $7.4 million player option for the 2021-22 season and enter free agency, with “several championship contending teams” expected to pursue him.

Could the Bulls be one of those teams?

Tucker would certainly be a snug fit with the Bulls given their laundry list of offseason needs. An 11-year NBA veteran with plenty of deep postseason experience — including a championship with the Bucks in 2021 —  he possesses the ability to play both frontcourt spots, defend the perimeter and interior with rare physicality, and threaten opposing defenses from the corners (he shot 41.3 percent on 172 corner 3-point attempts in 2021-22).

Even as his tooth lengthens — Tucker turned 37 in May — he is exactly the brand of complementary big that the Bulls should be looking to add to their frontcourt.

But if we’re assessing the Bulls’ chances of ultimately landing him?

The answer is unlikely.

Financially, the Bulls actually could be in a position to offer Tucker a raise, assuming he opted out of the final season of his contract in pursuit of more guaranteed money. Provided the Bulls operate under the luxury-tax line, they would have the ability to offer Tucker a contract using their non-taxpayer mid-level exception, which this offseason is projected to max out at just north of $10 million in first-year salary.

The questions are: Would bowling Tucker, a useful but limited player, over with that lucrative of an offer be a prudent use of resources for a team with multiple bench holes to plug, from the wing to the center spot? And would Tucker have interest if they did?

This is a player, remember, who followed up his title-winning campaign with the Bucks by joining the Heat in pursuit of winning another championship. Miami, despite battling injuries, finished the 2021-22 regular season No. 1 seed in the East and the playoffs one win away from reaching the NBA Finals.

The Bulls, who had health struggles of their own, finished sixth in the conference and were knocked out of the playoffs by Milwaukee in a five-game first-round rout, making it reasonable to wonder if they would represent Tucker's best chance at winning a title. And that’s assuming he even decides to leave Miami, which is far from guaranteed, as they could always bring him back at a slightly-bumped salary.

Alas, the rumor mill chugs along. If the Bulls were somehow able to land Tucker, there is no doubt he would be a tremendous addition. But expectations should be tempered.

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