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Coming off a successful season with the Miami Heat, P.J. Tucker is going to try cashing in with a new contract this summer.
Per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, the 37-year-old declined his $7.35 million player option for the 2022-23 season to become a free agent.
Charania reported Tucker is expected to get interest from “several championship-contending teams.”
According to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press, Tucker’s decision to opt out of his deal does not mean his time in South Beach is coming to an end:
Despite playing an integral role for the Milwaukee Bucks on their run to an NBA championship during the 2020-21 season, Tucker became an odd-man-out during the offseason when they elected to re-sign Bobby Portis.
Speaking to Marc J. Spears of Andscape in May, Tucker explained the Bucks didn’t keep him because ownership didn’t want to go into the luxury tax:
“That home where everybody loves you and you can go back and it’s love. I felt like I was building that [in Milwaukee]. And then to win it, it was like, ‘Oh, yeah, for sure.’ And they just weren’t going over the luxury tax. It just is what it is. They love you and whatever, whatever, but they weren’t going to go over it. They felt like they could replace me, and they did replace me.”
Milwaukee’s loss turned out to be Miami’s gain. The veteran signed a two-year, $14.35 million contract with the Heat last August. Head coach Erik Spoelstra used him in the starting lineup for 70 of his 71 games played.
Tucker, who is primarily known for his defensive exploits, turned into a solid offensive contributor. He averaged 7.6 points per game and made a career-high 41.5 percent of his three-point attempts.
He also had his best defensive rating (110) since the 2018-19 season when he was with the Houston Rockets, per Basketball-Reference.com.
Miami finished in the top five in points allowed per game (105.6) and defensive rating (109.1) this season, per Basketball-Reference.com. The Heat earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since 2013-14 and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to the Boston Celtics in seven games.
The Texas product was the biggest potential question mark for Miami’s roster, and his free agency opens up a potential hole at power forward that general manager Andy Elisburg will need to address.
The Heat could re-sign Tucker, but he has at least given himself the option of testing the market to see what offers will be out there.