It Might Seem Crazy, but why Can’t T.J. McConnell Start For The Philadelphia 76ers?
If you’re the Philadelphia 76ers, the 2017 NBA Draft is going to be crucial. You’ve got Ben Simmons making his NBA debut, Joel Embiid coming back from injury, and whomever the team drafts in 2017. However, Philly shouldn’t count out T.J. McConnell as its starting point guard for next season.
I know it’s a head scratching opinion, but why shouldn’t T.J. McConnell open the 2017 season as starting point guard?
Let’s say Malik Monk gets selected by Philadelphia, you’d have McConnell at PG, Monk at SG, Simmons at SF, Saric at PF, and Embiid at C. That’s a pretty formidable, young lineup.
Yes, McConnell only averaged 6.9 points, but that’s not what he’s about. It’s the assists that put McConnell in the conversation for a starting PG role. He’s a floor general, someone who can control the offense and set up others for easy scoring opportunities.
McConnell’s value is much higher as his minutes increased. That seems quite obvious, but giving him more time on the court will give him more opportunities for assists.
As a bench player, McConnell averaged 19.3 minutes played, with 4 points and 4.5 assists. His time as a starter saw him play 30 minutes, averaging 8.6 points and 7.8 assists. This should be a good indication of what McConnell can do with a significant on-court action.
With Simmons and a possible Draft Pick coming into play, the 30 minutes McConnell would receive will no doubt decrease. Although, the drafting of one of the Draft’s top-tier PG’s might seem a tad premature.
McConnell is only 25-years-old. His best basketball is ahead of him. It’s hard to fathom Philadelphia not selecting an impact player in the Draft. If they do, that’s not a bad decision, especially if they take a PG of the future, but why not see what McConnell can do with a healthy, full roster before moving on from him.
What if T.J. McConnell is exactly what the 76ers need? He’s young, a great passing PG, and is a team player. It’s a real possibility that McConnell ends up as a starting PG in Philly. But even if he doesn’t, there is still a lot of evidence to show he can be effective.
When McConnell is given just 20-29 minutes, he thrives. It might not mean a starter role in the offense, but the numbers are still quite solid. With averages of 6.8 points and 6.4 assists during the 20-29 minute mark, you could assume he would be a great backup to 2017 drafted PG or Ben Simmons.
I don’t think McConnell will end the 2017-18 season as the 76ers starting PG. I’m sure Philadelphia will draft someone who can play the position or move Simmons into the role. That doesn’t mean McConnell shouldn’t be given the role to start the season.
It’s going to take some time for a newly drafted PG or Simmons to get acclimated to the NBA. If McConnell excels during that time, and the team is winning, you’d have no choice but to continue giving him playing time.
Going back to a previous scenario, if Philadelphia were to select a SG like Monk or tweener such as Josh Jackson, McConnell would either start the year as the number one PG, or become Ben Simmons backup ( depending on what position they play him at full-time ). Either scenario would give him those key 20-29 minutes, as there wouldn’t be a true PG on the roster.
Whichever way Philadelphia goes, they should give T.J. McConnell a long look as the team’s starting PG to open up the season. He might not end the year as a starter, but he should still continue to get minutes. Basically, Philadelphia needs to give him the confidence that he can be trusted to play significant minutes. I see no reason why he can’t.
Follow Daniel James Gentile on twitter @dgentleman9288