Toronto Raptors: PJ Tucker, a Grinder, Will be a Fan Favourite

Feb 24, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors forward P.J. Tucker (2) celebrates a three-pointer by DeMarre Carroll (not pictured) against the Boston Celtics at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Celtics 107-97. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors forward P.J. Tucker (2) celebrates a three-pointer by DeMarre Carroll (not pictured) against the Boston Celtics at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Celtics 107-97. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Bang those lunch tables because P.J. Tucker is Grindin’ for the Toronto Raptors and you know what a hockey city loves? A great grinder.

Bang those lunch tables because P.J. Tucker is Grindin’. Toronto is a hockey city. Sure, the Toronto Raptors are good now and have been for the past few years with a vibrant fan base, but the Toronto Maple Leafs have mired in mediocrity for years and still draw on one of the most loyal fan bases to grace the planet.

And you know what hockey city’s love? A great grinder. Someone who isn’t here to excite the crowd with beautiful passing or sensational shooting. No, no, no, grinders are utilitarians, altruistic figures. Grinders get their hands dirty so the rest of the team and its stars can remain clean and pristine.

Limited in their offensive skill set, the grinder lives on the defensive end and physical play is with which their house is built. Grinders are a necessity in hockey, the Brian Boyle’s are just as important as the Auston Matthews’, but there will always be a plethora of them. Hockey is a full contact sport, born through exceptionally physical play, you can always find a physical player.

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Basketball is about grace. Up and unders, crossovers and reverse layups are about avoiding your opponent and keeping them off-balance so you can get past them — not through them. Even when playing defense you swipe for the ball for steals and swat for the ball, not player, for blocks. Physical play is allowed, although discouraged, so finding a player who can maximize physical attributes is as hard as finding a video of Kanye West being humble.

When the Raptors traded Jared Sullinger and two second rounders for Tucker we thought it was a decent trade. Sullinger wasn’t really doing anything for the Raptors and second rounders are riches to a mere pauper.

Tucker had the reputation as a defensive specialist, but when you play in Phoenix reputations can get murky. The Suns are one of the worst teams in the entire league, 23rd in offensive rating and more importantly 26th in DRTG, so trading for a defensive specialist from that team sounds astoundingly farfetched but a change of scenery can work wonders.

Admittedly, Tucker is a mediocre shooter from deep, only hitting 32 percent of them, so he would really have to make hay on the defensive end to smooth talk his way within the rotation. Luckily, if Tucker’s play could speak it would say:

lazy passes, I hawk that.

Loose handles, I strip that.

And, lockdown defense, I play that.

Scoring is hard work, although it looks effortless when effective. After watching the ball fall like a meteor through the net a hundred times per game and witnessing wicked dunks being thrown down you realize that’s just what NBA players do.

Defense is always hard work and it shows, skirting screens, bumping your opponent to deny position, beating them to a spot to draw a charge, its work that is evident every time you see it. Everyone wants to score 40, yet not everyone can. Tucker knows this and he also knows not everyone can put the clamps on Paul George. Tucker understands what he’s good at and hones it like a samurai whetting their blade.

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Tucker takes on every challenge like it’s his last, pouring every ounce of his being into guarding the person who is in front of him. The essence of his game is to sacrifice for the Raptors. There are no flashy stats for defence the only time you know it worked is if your opponent misses or turns the ball over but nothing gets assigned to you. It’s just a detriment to the opponent’s stats. A steal here and block there is all the concrete evidence you get, as Tucker the defensive specialist, unless people are there to actually watch him play.

You cant just trot on the court and just lock up Jimmy Butler. It takes a special breed of physical play to wear him down. You have to be in his face all of the time making sure he never gets comfortable on the court because that’s when he kills you.

Tucker is an amazing one-on-one defender and it gets the crowd rolling. Every possession is a grind and the closer the clock comes to ticking zero basketball reverts to its true nature, into one versus one and the question of “can you really stop me?”

Not many players can answer that question affirmatively but it’s amazing to watch a player that can. The way they hop from side to side; watching the offensive player bounce of the defenders body unable to gain ground is gratifying to watch. The usual feeling of overcoming overwhelming odds miraculously is substituted by the domineering emotion of rejecting someone else. No you can’t beat us, no you cannot score. You get nothing, you lose, good day sir.

Next: Raptors' Quarterly Awards - 3rd Edition

Tucker’s defensive game isn’t glamorous but it’s invaluable. He’s brought an element of mettle that the Raptors have never been able to attain while halting the best scorers in the league. He’s an iron fisted defender that can perform in the spot light when called upon but will toil away in the shadows as a default and if Raptors fans don’t love him I don’t know who they will.