T.J. McConnell is Winning Over the NBA


T.J. McConnell is currently starting for the Philadelphia 76ers, mostly due to injuries, but he is earning a long future in the NBA. It’s time to start respecting him.

The Philadelphia 76ers are 9-3 in games that T.J. McConnell has played at least 30 minutes. In those contests, he’s averaging 8.8 points, 9.6 assists (2.5 turnovers), and 4.9 rebounds.

On Sunday, it was reported by Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer that the Cleveland Cavaliers made an effort to acquire Sixers’ point guard, McConnell. Keep in mind, this news was broken only five days after LeBron James demanded a [expletive] “playmaker.”

The reigning NBA champions have only won six of their last 14 games, which is obviously part of the reason why James has become so frustrated this week. A playmaker, he says. Matthew Dellavedova, who signed a four-year, $38-million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks, may have left more of a hole in the Cavaliers’ roster than one would have imagined.

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Dellavedova, commonly referred to as “Delly,” is a player that T.J. McConnell has often been compared to, due to their matching feistiness on defense, as well as their abilities to run an offense. Needless to say, the commonalities that the former Arizona Wildcat shares with the Aussie is assumed to be the reason why the Sixers reportedly received a phone call.

This is where a debate between Sixers fans began, which happens 99 percent of the time on a website called Twitter. You may have heard of it.

There were arguments for keeping McConnell, and there were arguments to trade the “suicide kamakaze,” which is a nickname Brett Brown brilliantly cooked up.

This isn’t one of those hot-takes arguments that someone forcefully came up with. There is a backbone to both stances. One, you keep him because of the evident team success under his on-court command. Two, you trade him because he’s playing out of his mind right now and who’s to say he’ll continue playing at this level? Do you keep him, hoping he continues to grow with his also young teammates, or do you project his value at its peak right now and trade him?

With this said, it was also reported that the Cavaliers offered the 76ers Jordan McRae, who was drafted 58th overall in the 2014 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs, who then sent his rights to the Sixers and former general manager, Sam Hinkie. The question Is — how quickly did Bryan Colangelo hang up?

T.J. McConnell went from being a little-known guard for Duquesne (two years), to a standout floor general for the University of Arizona by his senior year. He then went from being undrafted to receiving an NBA contract from Philadelphia. Then, after getting constantly written off as a viable professional basketball player, we’re now reading reports that not-so-silent-GM, LeBron James, is asking for his services.

With the Cavaliers, McConnell would most likely back up Kyrie Irving, just like Delly did. With he 76ers, we’re seeing him start games now, but what will happen once Ben Simmons comes back? This is something that’s commonly brought up in the argument to trade T.J. Ben Simmons, who may or may not develop a consistent jump shot, needs to be surrounded by shooters. He’ll do a bulk of the ball handling, so having McConnell on the court simultaneously would be counterproductive, no?

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With Simmons sidelined from a foot injury he suffered before preseason, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Sixers are currently conducting open auditions (internally) for Ben’s backup ball handler. Right now, T.J. Seems to be leading the pack. It seems more likely, as of late, that Sergio Rodriguez, who is on a one-year deal, won’t be back with the team next year (especially after the news broke on Sunday that the team extended the newly-signed Chasson Randle to a three-year deal).

Regarding the current guards on the roster, assuming “El Chacho” is gone next year, that leaves the Sixers with six guards: McConnell, Randle, Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Nik Stauskas. Of these guards, McConnell is the only true floor general, which leaves the 2017-18 team with him and Simmons as the primary ball handlers. McConnell’s energy, along with the fact that his teammates love him, will all work in his favor when it’s time for management to make a decision.

One thing that could stand in the way of the second-year point guard is the 2017 NBA Draft. At this point, the Sixers are sitting with the sixth-best odds to win the lottery, according to Tankathon. After you factor this, with he added probability possessed with the Sacramento Kings pick swap rights, and the top-three protected Los Angeles Lakers first-round draft pick acquired in the Michael Carter-Williams trade, it’s totally up in the air who’ll be available when Adam Silver announces that Philadelphia is on the clock.

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But, even if the 76ers enter training camp with either Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith Jr., or Frank Ntilikina as one of their newest point guards, this doesn’t mean McConnell is gone. It just means the current “[expletive] playmaker” could be a third stringer next season. A third stringer, who helped the Sixers win nine of their last 12 games, is a reason to be excited about the future.