Ex-Arizona Wildcat TJ McConnell is Philadelphia 76ers’ lone bright spot

You guys at the Sports Kave know how I feel about the Philadelphia 76ers and their convoluted “process”. It’s absolute rat garbage and the number crunching Sam Hinkie has no soul. They lose on purpose to get the top draft pick and get the next big star yet while stacking up lottery picks, the Sixers have gotten worse by the year.

There are three guys that represent the process. One of them has yet to play a single game and the other two have created a scrapbook’s worth of long faces.

The Sixers are dead last in scoring offense, 28th in rebounding, 27th in scoring defense (it’s possible that there are three teams with a worst defense?) and 22nd in assists per game.

Well there you have it, folks! There is one thing the Sixers do that is at least not horribly dreadful. You can thank former Arizona Wildcat and rookie point guard T.J. McConnell for that.

McConnell leads the Sixers with 4.6 assists per game and Sixers as a team average more assists per game than four Eastern Conference playoff teams, including the Toronto Raptors, who are just three games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top spot.

McConnell was a fantastic point guard at the University of Arizona. Much like what Aaron Craft was at Ohio State, McConnell made his entire team better and played defense the way a point guard is supposed to play defense, like a pest.

“He just constantly is like a pest,” Sixers starting point guard Ish Smith told CSN Philly back in January, “staying on you, getting on your nerves.”

What Smith calls a pest, head coach Bob Brown calls “tough”. Back in early February, SB Nation showed through statistical research that Sixers top shooters Isaiah Cannan, Hollis Thompson and Robert Covington, are better with McConnell on the court with them than any other Philly point guard.

What made McConnell work so well at Arizona is that he is Sean Miller. Both of them are from Pittsburgh and both of them average virtually the same numbers during their senior season. McConnell averaged 10.1 points and 6.3 assists per game and Miller averaged 10.7 points and 6.4 assists as a senior for Pitt back in the day. They are also split personalities.

“There are a lot of players, when they walk out the door, you miss,” Miller told the New York Times in last year’s tournament. “I don’t know if I’ll miss anybody more than him.”

f3ef6456-906e-4a1e-8467-0cf540e8151fAs a player in the NBA, McConnell is very limited. The only two things he can do is pass the ball and play defense. Nobody has ever thought he could end up in the NBA out of college. Remember the Aaron Craft comparison earlier in the column? I just saw him playing in the D-League for the Santa Cruz Warriors.

McConnell is a lot like Matthew Dellavedova of the Cavs, another undrafted point guard with similar traits.

In his third season in the NBA, the Aussie is averaging eight points per game (two more than McConnell) and 4.8 assists per game. He reached cult hero status in last year’s NBA Finals when he was touted for his defense against Stephen Curry and scored 20 points in the Cavs’ Game 3 victory just before being hospitalized due to dehydration.

“If you don’t love Delly then you don’t love basketball,” Cavs head coach Tyron Lue told Cleveland.com Saturday after playing the Boston Celtics. 

The same can be said about McConnell.

McConnell photo by USA Today, Dellavedova photo by Tony Capobianco


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