Can Philadelphia 76ers T.J. McConnell scrap for starts again this season?

PHILADELPHIA, PA – APRIL 10: Head coach Brett Brown (center left) talks with Nik Stauskas #11, T.J. McConnell #1 (center right) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot #20 of the Philadelphia 76ers during a timeout against the Indiana Pacers during the fourth quarter at the Wells Fargo Center on April 10, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Pacers won 120-111. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)

Now that Philadelphia 76ers T.J. McConnell is married, will he miraculously end up as the team’s starting point guard for the third consecutive season?

Philadelphia 76ers point guard T.J. McConnell has had a busy off-season. Busy? Well, in terms of major life changes yes. You see, he’s married now.   But that was to be expected. He had sported a new “do” at the request of his fiance, and so his off-season wedding is almost anti-climatic.  But drama follows McConnell into every NBA season, and this season will be no different.

In the 2015-2016, the undrafted rookie from the University of Arizona was a long-shot to even make the roster.  But other players fell to injury, and he remained as the healthiest point guard that season.  Despite his modest route into the NBA, McConnell started 17 games, and played in 81 games in his rookie season.

McConnell did not wilt that first season, not even when the team traded two second round draft picks for the right to rent point guard Ish Smith for the second segment of the season. In fact, McConnell simply upped his game as a result.

2016 off-season saw McConnell fall to four on the depth chart

The 2016-2017 placed new roadblocks in the path of T.J. McConnell and playing time. In fact, the team draft point man Ben Simmons with the top selection from the 2016 NBA Draft. Next the team signed combo guard Jerryd Bayless and point guard Sergio Rodriguez to the roster.

Undaunted, he simply upped his game once more.  While he stood at fourth on the depth chart in the off-season, he rose rapidly. Ben Simmons suffered a season-ending foot injury in preseason. Jerryd Bayless suffered a season-ending injury which he could not play through. Even Sergio Rodriguez suffered a series of minor injuries.

And point guard T.J. McConnell showed up ready to play and did.   This time he played in 81 games, but started 51 contests. And while his points per game remained below 7.0 PPG, he elevated his assists per game from 4.5 up to 6.6 APG, leading the team.

2017 off-season finds McConnell falling to four on the depth chart again

This season, the team anticipates welcoming back to health both Ben Simmons and Jerryd Bayless. And once more, the team has drafted competition for back court playing time with the top-pick, in 2017 selecting Markelle Fultz to the team.

Now the team likely perceives that Simmons, Bayless, and Fultz all stand before him on the depth chart.  And that trio now drops McConnell to fourth once more.  But don’t expect that to last, as he will respond by upping his game again.

In the month of April 2017, he elevated his game once more. In fact, he averaged 8.7 points and 8.7 assists per game in the final six games of the season. While those numbers will not secure a starting position on the team for the 2017-2018 season, it would be foolish for the team to discard that type of production.

While the team may consider options at the point guard, don’t look for any hasty rush job to thin the ranks there.  He has beaten the odds two seasons in a row, and he is still competing for playing minutes.

The former Arizona point guard does not wilt in the face of competition. In fact, it brings out the best in him. Perhaps that is why he continues to improve as the team raises the bar. Perhaps that is why he finds himself capable of hitting a buzzer-beating-game-winning-shot when time runs out.

Grit. It takes lots of it to win big in the NBA.  Right now, T.J. McConnell has more than his share. And that is not something I want to see the team undervalue this season.  Head coach Brett Brown understands what he has in his young point guard. It’s not about the box stats. It’s about a player who plays larger in big moments.