Tucker's post-Texas career has been bumpy
P.J. Tucker has a message for all those underclassmen who have decided to stay in the draft or are even waffling at this juncture: You had better get with the right team, one that fits your game.
If you don't, expect the road to be quite bumpy early in your career.
Look, you can debate who is to blame for Tucker's plight. After leaving Texas with one year of eligibility remaining, he was drafted by Toronto at No. 35 in the second round in 2006 and released less than a year later when the Raptors picked up Luke Jackson from Oregon.
"It's not about the pick or the round," said Tucker. "I'd rather go in the second round to a team that I could play for than a team in the first round that doesn't need me. It wasn't a great fit for me or the team. It just didn't work out. It's all about the fit, just look at Daniel, look at Paul Millsap [No. 47 to Utah in the 2006 second round] and Dee Brown [No. 46 to Utah in the 2006 second round]. If you go with the right team, then everything will work out."
Tucker played in 17 games for the Raptors and averaged 1.8 points and 1.4 rebounds. He played for the Colorado 14ers in the NBA Developmental League and averaged 10.7 points and 3.4 rebounds in 19 games.
This was the same Tucker who was the 2006 Big 12 Player of the Year and averaged 16.1 points and 9.5 boards a game despite being undersized at 6-foot-5.
"He didn't get an opportunity," said Tucker's father, Anthony. P.J. is currently working out in Raleigh, N.C., and hanging out with his family as he decides which NBA summer league team he will play for in the hope that he can make a roster in the fall.
"He wasn't going to go overseas," Anthony Tucker said. "I wasn't pleased with what happened. I just wish he could have gotten an opportunity."
Multiple sources said Tucker believed he was a first-round pick when he told Texas coach Rick Barnes that he was leaving. But Barnes advised him that he wasn't hearing from one single NBA team that Tucker was going in the first round.
"I do think P.J. Tucker can play in the NBA, but you don't need the whole league to like you, just one person," Barnes said. "He's got to find the one person [team] that likes him."
Tucker said he has no issues with what transpired in the 2006 draft. He said he was told prior to the draft that he was likely to go late in the first round or early in the second. He was the fifth pick in the second round.
Tucker said that testing the draft process wasn't for him. He said he doesn't believe in players' sitting on the fence. He made his decision to enter the draft and he was all in from that point forward.
"If you [test], then you're not going to class as much, you're not working out as much, and you're dealing with your team and your coach," Tucker said. "You've got to go and roll with it. It's a hard road either way, whether you're a first- or second-round pick. The team could take you in the first round and decide it doesn't need you."
Tucker said he felt like there was a pull for him and Gibson to go back to Texas for another season (not so much for Texas forward LaMarcus Aldridge who ended up going No. 2).
"Everybody wishes that me and Daniel stayed and played," said Tucker of a scenario that would have made Kevin Durant's choice of schools interesting if Tucker remained as Texas' primary scorer. "But you make your decisions in life and you keep going. Some guys are doing better than others. I've still got a lot of playing ahead."
Tucker didn't guarantee he'll be in the NBA next season, but he is anticipating being on a roster.
"This past year made me grow up and understand what this is all about and how to go about things," Tucker said of professional basketball.
Tucker made his draft decision without hesitation. He took a gamble. So far it hasn't paid off, but he's not close to quitting.
"He is where he is now," Barnes said. "Now he's just to work hard. Someone out there will give him a chance and he'll grab the moment."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
- Nike Men's Texas Longhorns Burnt Orange Basketball Performance Polo