Why the 76ers need to make TJ McConnell a lifelong Sixer

Mar 3, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard TJ McConnell warms up prior to action against the New York Knicks at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 3, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard TJ McConnell warms up prior to action against the New York Knicks at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

T.J. McConnell has been exactly what The Process has been about. An undrafted guard out of the University of Arizona, McConnell has become the scrappy point guard the the Philadelphia 76ers need. Here’s why we need to make him a life-long Sixer.

I remember watching T.J. McConnell and the Arizona Wildcats take on D’Angelo Russell‘s Ohio State Buckeyes during my senior year of high school. Something I noticed was that T.J. locked down one of the top players in the country, turning D’Angelo from regular season James Harden to 2012 NBA Finals James Harden. At that moment, I understood the potential that T.J. possessed, mainly as a role player.

Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers /

Philadelphia 76ers

When T.J. went undrafted, scrub guards such as Jerian Grant and Tyus Jones were taken ahead of T.J., A.K.A. Toy Jesus McConnell. When that happened, I assumed his pro career was over. Then Toy Jesus joined the 76ers summer league team, which made sense to me because teams need filler for the playoffs. Then T.J. signed with the 76ers and I was sure he would get cut. But like previously, he proved me wrong by making the team.

McConnell was average his rookie season and then his career took a turn for the better. T.J. beat out Sergio Rodriguez for the starting point guard slot. He developed a great bromance with Dario Saric. He even became Joel Embiid‘s twitter picture.

T.J. has become a cult hero. He has become a hero to the short kids who sit on the bench for their middle school and high school teams. His blue collar play has been widely appreciated by older fans. His defense has been taught by coaches everywhere, likely to those same short kids.

McConnell has been a great player for the 76ers — and here’s why Bryan Colangelo must make McConnell a life long Sixer.

Reason #1: His Skill Set

On offense, McConnell is a creator, which is essential for a team with Joel Embiid. Per 36 minutes, McConnell averaged nine assists a game. T.J. makes others around him better. It explains why Ersan Ilyasova played so well in his stint in the City of Brotherly Love. It also explains how Robert Covington took his game to the next level this season.

McConnell’s biggest concern is his shooting ability. He shot 20 percent from 3-point land last season, a horrible percentage for a guard. However, McConnell will have a whole offseason to work on his shot. It also helps that the Sixers just opened a new practice facility in Camden, New Jersey.

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On the defensive end, McConnell is a great defender. McConnell hustles and dives for every loose ball. He gives it all on the defensive end. He’s everything you want on the defensive end for a point guard.

Let’s be realistic here, McConnell will never make a Gary Payton-like impact on the defensive end. But McConnell could defend point guards in a Simmons point guard lineup, which is extremely valuable for Brett Brown. It allows the Sixers to continually play positionless lineups.

Reason #2- His contract situation

T.J. is on a Hinkie special deal right now. He has two years left on his deal with no money guaranteed. If McConnell struggles, the Sixers can cut him easily. If he doesn’t, we have a good backup point guard on an affordable deal. This is essential to have with Embiid and Covington due big extensions.

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When Toy Jesus hits free agency, he will also be easy to re-sign. Backup point guards don’t cost much to retain and T.J. will be no exception. He has embraced being a part of the Sixers and The Process in general. The city loves him and he loves Philly back. McConnell will be easy to resign and not cost much.

To make matters even better, T.J. fits with the 76ers title window. McConnell is 25 and should be around for many Sixers playoffs runs in the future. He is still growing as a player, so any contract extension could look like a steal.

Reason #3- He’s the hero we all deserve

T.J. McConnell is the hero we deserve and need. An undrafted point guard from Western Pennsylvania has gotten a role on one of the most promising young teams. McConnell is the NBA’s version of Steve Rodgers or Peter Parker before they got their powers.

Having a player on a team for their entire career looks great on an organization. The Celtics gained a large amount of praise for making Bird and McHale life long Celtics. This would be great for a team that has struggled with image problems since Sam Hinkie was forced to re-sign. Also, having a role player throughout his whole career would be beneficial. McConnell could be our Nick Collison and eventually become an assistant under Brett Brown. That would be really cool.

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Hopefully, the 76ers will resign McConnell to a lifetime deal, although lifetime deals are illegal under the CBA. Having a loveable role player is an awesome feeling.  It would be amazing if we could lock up TJ. Every team needs a great backup and we need a point god. Hopefully, TJ “Toy Jesus” McConnell will be that guy.