According to a report, the Philadelphia 76ers have discussed a contract extension with T.J. McConnell. However, he also could become trade bait.
With the No. 1 overall picks in the respective 2016 and 2017 NBA Draft starting in the Philadelphia 76ers backcourt, and each basically point guards who can’t (or won’t) shoot, the need for reserve point guard T.J. McConnell would seem negligible.
McConnell is scrappy, plays with a lot of heart and is a great teammate. However, he is also a point guard with little outside shooting ability, just like Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, who the club has a lot more invested in.
One would think three would be a crowd for a team in the ‘point guard who can’t shoot’ category — but maybe not.
McConnell is in the last year of his contract. On the latest ‘Woj Pod’ a podcast with fellow ESPN NBA Insider Zach Lowe, Adrian Wojnarowski says the Sixers have had talks with McConnell about a contract extension.
According to the Sixers Wire, Wojnarowski said:
“What do they do with T.J. McConnell? Because they’ve discussed an extension, just had conversations about one, but also he’s in demand on the trade market … he’s a terrific backup for anybody in the league. And if you are Philly, do you just feel like [Markelle] Fultz has this, we don’t need to keep T.J. around as an insurance policy? Brett Brown’s always really, really liked him and from the very beginning he’s one of the players who survived the rebuild. it’ll be interesting to see what they do with him too as we get closer to the February deadline.”
Now this is not one of those famous ‘Woj Bombs’ where he outscoops everyone. This was commentary on his podcast. He says the Sixers have talked about it with McConnell’s representatives but nothing seems imminent.
He also discusses that McConnell is valued by other NBA teams. It is a point guard starved league. Remember, ‘Process’-era 76ers point guards Isaiah Cannon (Phoenix) and Ish Smith (Detroit) currently each get a lot of minutes for real NBA teams trying to win.
Supposedly, Phoenix offered a second-round pick to the 76ers recently for McConnell, which they obviously turned down.
McConnell’s future is probably tied in with Fultz, as Simmons is entrenched as starting point guard for many years to come.
A team can not give regular minutes to three point guards, particularly when none can consistently make a shot more than 12-feet from the basket.
In Tuesday’s game against Boston, Sixers coach Brett Brown basically benched Fultz and went with McConnell in the second half. He said he tried McConnell because he had played so well against the Celtics in the playoffs.
What would a McConnell contract extension exactly signal? You are not signing him to be the third-string point guard (and why would McConnell sign knowing he could start or be a quality backup on a lot of other teams).
Would it mean the 76ers are confident that Fultz will regain an outside shot and be able to play a lot of shooting guard? Or would McConnell be, in the 76ers mind, an insurance policy that if Fultz turns into a No. 1 overall pick bust like Anthony Bennett or Kwame Brown, they can cash in and still have two very viable ballhandlers?
And what would Fultz think of the Sixers making a long-term commitment to a player who would take minutes directly from him?
McConnell is currently on the final year of a ‘Hinkie Special’ (i.e. super cheap) contract, which makes him even more interesting to outside teams looking for point guard help. Even LeBron James once liked the idea of teaming up with T.J.
Did new general manager Elton Brand turn down Phoenix because the club considers McConnell part of their long-term plans or, maybe, because he thinks if they wait, they will get a better off for him?
Whatever happens, McConnell will be making a heck of lot more money at this time next year.