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The Heat shouldn’t let P.J. Tucker walk

It’s not a good look when a contending team gets cheap and lets a key cog go.

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics - Game Six Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Pat Riley loves P.J. Tucker. He called him a “cornerstone for us” during his season-ending press conference earlier this month. Erik Spoelstra also heaped praise on the 2021 NBA champion during his exit interview. We also know Jimmy Butler loves Tucker.

And yet, rumor has it that the 37-year-old power forward will sign with the Philadelphia 76ers to rejoin James Harden and Daryl Morey from their days together with the Houston Rockets. That’s what Marc Stein said on his Substack.

The Heat shouldn’t let it happen. They need to keep him, even if it takes a three-year deal starting at the $10.3 million non-taxpayer midlevel exception.

It’s not a good look when a contending team gets cheap and lets a key cog go. The Milwaukee Bucks did it to Tucker a year ago. In an interview with Marc Spears from May, Tucker said as much. “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.” Do you think the Bucks could’ve used him when Khris Middleton was out in the second-round series against the Boston Celtics?

The same thing happened to Alex Caruso. On J.J. Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast, he said he wanted to go back to the Los Angeles Lakers, but they didn’t offer a contract that matched his market value. Look how that turned out for the Lakers.

Two off-seasons ago, the Heat didn’t offer more than one guaranteed season to Jae Crowder, who ended up leaving for the Phoenix Suns. Moe Harkless was a disaster, and Trevor Ariza was OK until he had to face Giannis Antetokounmpo in the playoffs and found himself completely overmatched. You could even go back to the Heat’s ill-fated decision to amnesty Mike Miller after winning the 2013 NBA championship and how that made LeBron James feel.

Yes, Tucker is old. Yes, it’d be great if he took more above-the-break 3s so that defenders wouldn’t only account for him at the corners. But the Heat should still do what it takes to keep him.