What is T.J. McConnell’s Future with the Philadelphia 76ers?

Jan 27, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard T.J. McConnell (1) reacts after a score Houston Rockets during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 27, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard T.J. McConnell (1) reacts after a score Houston Rockets during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Following his second game winner of the season against Orlando on Thursday night, it’s time to check in on T.J. McConnell‘s progress and evaluate his future with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Philadelphia 76ers are in a unique situation. After two game winners within the span of a month, T.J. McConnell is getting some serious plaudits. The 6-2 McConnell has come a long way since signing with the Philadelphia 76ers as an undrafted free agent in the summer of 2015.

McConnell has always been difficult to evaluate at face value. His diminutive, hustling, Scrappy Doo persona makes him a protagonist to some and an antagonist to others. His detractors are quick to argue that his acclaim is because of his persona more so than his production.
It’s difficult to remove the aesthetics from the evaluation of such a seemingly out-of-place figure. That in mind, let’s evaluate T.J. as empirically as possible.

The True Point Guard

T.J. is as archetypal of a point guard as imaginable. If every high school basketball coach in the country entered a genetic lab to design a point guard, they would create T.J. McConnell. He is third in the NBA in passes per minute. He is 10th among guards in deflections. He is fourth in the NBA in “average speed” in-game at 4.67 mph. But the most important metric: he makes his teammates better simply by sharing the court with him.

He is far from a swiss army knife, but does just enough to remain multidimensional. He ranked third in the NBA last year in effective field goal percentage on pull-up jump shots, behind only Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

Off-Ball Troubles

The biggest hole on T.J.’s game right now is the his non-existent three point jump shot. His lack of threat – or even willingness – to shoot from distance make him a major stop-gap in the flow of any NBA offense.
In the NBA, there are creators and destroyers. The best players are both. T.J. McConnell is a creator. Kyle Korver is a destroyer. Kawhi Leonard is both. T.J. is a tremendous facilitator, but an incapable beneficiary.
T.J. can orchestrate the offense beautifully, but they had better get it right on the first try. Because if not, and the ball circulates back to T.J., it’s back to square one. It’s most evident when his teammates break the defense down, and T.J. is the one who needs to punish.

There are plenty of non jump shooters who are off-ball terrors for NBA defenses. Leave John Wall unchecked, and expect a violent downhill attack at the rim. But without a jump shot or the tools to attack and finish in traffic, all T.J. can do is attack the already open space, and dish out to a hole that has already been plugged.

It’s not all gloom and doom off the ball for T.J. He is a shrewd and comfortable off-ball cutter, though he doesn’t get a chance to display it much with the ball so often in his hands.

He displayed during the summer league that he can work very well with another pass-first ball handler.

While Ben Simmons is expected to play point guard, I do expect the two to share the court for extended time once Simmons returns. Two exceedingly high IQ players always find ways to work well together.


While his offense leaves plenty to be desired, McConnell’s defense has been above average for NBA standards. McConnell possesses the only two physical tools needed to be a passable perimeter defender: core strength and lateral quickness. He is an absolute pest, and is not afraid to dive after a loose ball like his life depends on it.

Steve Shea at basketballanalyticsbook.com created a new statistic called Perimeter Defense Rating (PDR) that factors in data such as proximity to matchup, opponent FGA, opponent FG%, deflections, etc. to quantify a player’s perimeter defense skills. McConnell ranks seventh on that list, and is among some elite company.

In terms of the Sixers’ future, McConnell is likely to stick around for the long haul. While he will certainly not be a career-long starter, he will be a key contributor who will see starter’s minutes at times. McConnell has clearly shown that he can work well with any group of players on the floor, and will make them better in the process.

Next: Philadelphia 76ers Are NBA’s Team Of Destiny

Allow me to introduce you to T.J. McConnell, NBA player.