With Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas out of town, P.J. Tucker is a good pick-up off the waiver wire.
P.J. Tucker, G/F Phoenix Suns
P.J. Tucker is a bulldog. A 2006 second-round pick out of Texas, to call Tucker relentless would be an understatement. It’s a piece of who he is, and that relentlessness translates onto the basketball court with every second he’s out there. It’s tough to blame him. After his rookie season with the Toronto Raptors, Tucker found himself out of the NBA until the 2012-13 season, where he was able to find re-entry by earning a role with the Phoenix Suns.
Since both the All-Star break and trade deadline have passed, Tucker has looked much more like the bulldog we saw the past two seasons vs. the version we saw earlier in the campaign. Through his first five games after the break, Tucker is averaging more minutes (31.1), more points (13.6), more rebounds (7.8), more steals (2.2) and shooting a higher percentage (48.0 percent) from the field. Perhaps PJ just needed a little R&R to get his game back on track, right?
The Suns were the most active team at the trade deadline, sending both Goran Dragic (Miami) and Isaiah Thomas (Boston) out of town. Although the club got Brandon Knight (another point guard) in return, Thomas has seen a much larger opportunity to contribute since the Suns cleared their point guard logjam. Considering the laughable depth behind Tucker that includes Danny Granger (headed for buyout) and two incredibly raw youngsters in Reggie Bullock and T.J. Warren (not to mention Archie Goodwin), it’s hard to see how or where Tucker’s challenge for minutes will come from.
And those who want to campaign for Gerald Green? He’s not in the same role he was last season, he was benched earlier in the season and hasn’t played more than 30.5 minutes (once, Feb. 20) since the middle of December. Pick up Tucker without hesitation.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Detroit Pistons
When the Detroit Pistons made the surprising decision to trade for Reggie Jackson just before the NBA trade deadline, the team was able to secure its (hopeful) backcourt of the future.
Although Caldwell-Pope hasn’t received the national attention he should, it has been hard to ignore his obvious improvement this season. In comparison with his rookie season, KCP’s numbers are up across the board with the exception of free throw shooting, and that’s impressive considering he has taken on both a larger role and increased minutes.
Averaging 2.3 triples during his rookie season, KCP has bumped that number up to 5.3 for his sophomore campaign. He’s connecting on 1.9 attempts, good for 35.7 percent, and while that isn’t what we’d call an “elite shooter,” it’s still notable for an owner looking for help from behind the three-point line.
After chucking up 5.1 triples through 31 games in December and January, KCP has kept it consistent in February with his 5.1 attempts per game, but he’s connecting at a rate he just simply hasn’t prior. Averaging 2.3 makes over nine February contests, Caldwell-Pope is shooting at a red-hot 45.7 percent clip from distance. That’s called “money in the bank,” and the charade of him going under-the-radar in fantasy circles has to come to an end.
In three games since the All-Star break, the Georgia product is averaging a ridiculous 19.7 points, 1.7 steals and 4.3 3-pointers (!!) on a whopping 56.5 percent from long range. While it’s absurd to think he can keep up that level of offensive efficiency given his role on the Pistons currently, it’s yet another sign that KCP’s expanding game is very much here to stay.
Ed Davis, F/C Los Angeles Lakers
Ed Davis remains consistent.
No matter what role the Los Angeles Lakers have asked him to serve this season, “The Boss Man” has remained in charge. Although he hasn’t made the impact some (this guy) projected due to a variety of factors (opportunity, injuries, Byron Scott’s questionable lineup decisions), Davis has played in at least half (24 minutes) of every game since the All-Star break, and he has wasted no time making his presence felt.
In those four games (26 minutes per), Davis is averaging 8.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 1.1 blocks on a solid 56.8 percent shooting. Spectacular? No. Useful? You bet. Davis is the definition of a guy who will almost never hurt you, has a projectable floor in his current role and can only surprise you by contributing more than expected on any given night. That sounds like an ideal guy to have at the end of your roster, doesn’t it?
It gets better.
The Lakers aren’t playing for anything other than keeping their top-five pick at this point, and Davis getting increased opportunity isn’t going to single-handedly change the ceiling of this paper-thin roster. That should mean there’s plenty of room for Davis to keep contributing—but I wouldn’t expect him to suddenly start competing for 35-plus minutes per night. An increased role is certainly possible, but the Lakers will be smart in protecting how much they expose Davis to the NBA. This is a team that wants to keep the big man around on a team-friendly deal, and that will not be possible if Davis is suddenly unleashed.
The good news is that he does his damage without big minutes.
And his per-36 production proves it: 12.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.9 blocks.