T.J. McConnell should be with the Philadelphia 76ers for a long time.
For three years now, we’ve found ourselves questioning whether or not T.J. McConnell has a future with the Philadelphia 76ers. From “he’s just an undrafted free agent” to “he won’t get playing time on a competitive team”, there has always been a reason against having him in the rotation.
And, for three years now, McConnell has overcome the odds and made valuable contributions. He stuck around during his rookie year, started 51 games last season, and emerged as the Sixers’ primary backup for most of this season.
Going into the playoffs, it felt like Markelle Fultz had secured all the backup point guard minutes. When he struggled, though, it didn’t take long for Brett Brown to revert back to who he was most comfortable with. McConnell ended up leading the Sixers to their only second round victory as part of the starting five.
At this point, there’s no denying what has become a simple truth — McConnell is an NBA player. He’s not a short-term stopgap. He’s a legit backup point guard who deserves his roster spot.
And, for the time being, the Sixers are committed to giving him that roster spot. It didn’t take long for Bryan Colangelo to pick up McConnell’s team option, insuring that he’ll be with the team next season. McConnell, however, deserves to be with the team well beyond next season.
Eventually, McConnell’s opportunities might run thin. Markelle Fultz is going to see significant minutes next season, most of which will probably come in the second unit. If the Sixers draft or sign another lead guard, there’s a very real chance that McConnell ends up toward the bottom of the rotation.
Even then, he deserves a roster spot. McConnell’s steady hand has provided a lot of value over the past few seasons, even in short spurts. He’s also a big part of the Sixers’ locker room dynamic, whether it be hyping up the bench or educating the team on coffee.
McConnell is sneakily effective as a playmaker, probing the interior and finding open shooters along the perimeter. His high-I.Q. passing helps keep the ball moving, while his ability to get dribble penetration and create open looks is something the Sixers have lacked in recent years.
He’s also a solid change of pace defensively. He’s a nice jolt of energy, using his quick hands and constant hustle to pressure opposing point guards end-to-end. When he’s able to sneak into the backcourt and steal an inbounds pass, that’s a very real momentum shift.
Even if his minutes are limited — or, on some nights, nonexistent– there’s no reason not to keep McConnell on the roster. He won’t command much on the open market, so the Sixers should be able to retain him for relatively cheap.
The man wore his wedding suit to an exit interview. How can you not sign him to a four-year extension after that?