T.J. McConnell

T.J. McConnell Likely To Stay With Pacers

The Pacers plan to keep T.J. McConnell on the roster for another season at $3.5MM rather than buying out his contract for $1MM, a source tells J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. The team hasn’t made an announcement, but Michael reports that McConnell is “a lock to return.”

The 28-year-old point guard signed with Indiana last summer after spending the first four years of his career in Philadelphia. His contract includes a trigger date for year two that the Pacers have to decide on before the draft, which has since been moved to November 18.

McConnell isn’t a three-point threat, shooting just 29.4% from beyond the arc, but Indiana’s management values his professionalism, hustle and attitude, Michael adds. He appeared in 71 games last season, averaging 6.5 points and 5.0 assists in about 19 minutes per night.

Former coach Nate McMillan regularly used McConnell ahead of Aaron Holiday in the rotation. Their roles going forward will be determined by new coach Nate Bjorkgren.

Central Notes: Winston, Pistons, McConnell, Avdija

Pistons general manager Troy Weaver is bullish on the NBA potential of second-round 2020 draft prospect Cassius Winston, a Michigan State guard, per Rod Beard of The Detroit News“I’ve watched him throughout his career and I’ve been a big fan and hoping for the best,” Weaver said. “I think he has the spirit, that he’ll fight his way in, whether he gets drafted or not. I think he will give himself a great chance.”

Beard notes that Winston does not project to be a lottery pick, but could be drafted late in the first round on November 18. The Pistons currently own the No. 7 pick, but are among the several teams that could benefit from trading back.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press assesses five bargain free agents the Pistons could target using their room exception, including Kings center Harry Giles, Pacers shooting guard Justin Holiday, and veteran Magic point guard D.J. Augustin.
  • Pacers backup point guard T.J. McConnell is on a $3.5MM non-guaranteed contract for the 2020/21 season. J Michael of the Indy Star posits that McConnell could remain a useful, cost-effective role player on what could be a feisty Indiana team. Alternately, the Pacers could buy McConnell out for $1MM to open up his spot on the roster.
  • As we relayed earlier, 6’7″ swingman Deni Avdija is rumored to be a potential draft target for the Bulls with the fourth pick in this year’s draft.

Eastern Notes: Raptors Draft, Galloway, McConnell, Bulls

With the potential loss of Fred VanVleet in free agency and Kyle Lowry turning 34 this year, the Raptors could be in the market for a point guard in this year’s draft. With that in mind, Blake Murphy of The Athletic takes a look at floor leaders that the club could target with its late first-round pick. Duke’s Tre Jones, Stanford’s Tyrell Terry and Arizona’s Nico Mannion are some of the prospects that Murphy examines.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Pistons guard Langston Galloway, who is headed into unrestricted free agency, has “no regrets” about this season regardless of whether his team gets to play again, he told Rod Beard of the Detroit News. Galloway was the only player on the team to appear in every game and established himself as a solid second-unit shooter. “If we didn’t get to finish, I would say I had a great season and move on to the summer workouts,” he said. “I played in every single game, so I put my work on display every single game and the work I continue to put on display. I have no regrets going into the summer.”
  • Free agents T.J. McConnell, Justin Holiday and Alize Johnson are likely to remain with the Pacers next season, Scott Agness of The Athletic opines. McConnell and Holiday are solid reserves, while Johnson still has some upside. JaKarr Sampson is the only free agent that Indiana probably won’t re-sign, Agness adds.
  • The Bulls’ lottery chances could be jeopardized if they’re included in plans to resume the season, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago opines. Chicago is currently seventh in the draft lottery standings, giving the team a 32% chance at a top-four pick and a 7.5% chance at the No. 1 pick, Johnson notes. If the Bulls got hot during the resumption of play and even advanced in a revised playoff format, those odds would drop.

Pacers Notes: Oladipo, Lamb, McConnell, George

The Pacers‘ G League affiliate played an important role in preparing Victor Oladipo for his expected season debut, writes Scott Agness of The Athletic. Oladipo has made eight trips to Fort Wayne over the past two months to practice with the Mad Ants as he comes back from a ruptured right quad tendon. With the Pacers on a road trip, the G League team visited their practice facility this week to work with Oladipo.

“Anytime that an All-Star like Vic wants to play and practice with your guys, you’re going to let him,” Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey said. “Our Mad Ant guys are going to be watching him, and they’re going to look at every move that he does. Vic has been talking to a lot of our guys and trying to help them and give them pointers, both offensively and defensively and off the court. It’s been great for our guys just as much as Vic needs it.”

Gansey has been in frequent contact with Pacers coach Nate McMillan, providing updates on Oladipo’s progress. The latest step has been getting him used to traps as he brings the ball up court.

“This was the best I’ve seen Vic since we’ve had him in practice,” Gansey said of the time in Indianapolis. “We had three straight days where you just saw a different athleticism out there that you can really tell that he’s coming back here pretty soon and really pushing himself.”

There’s more Pacers news to pass along:

  • Jeremy Lamb has been starting in Oladipo’s place, but McMillan won’t hesitate to pull him on a bad shooting night, observers J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. Lamb, who has been mired in a shooting slump, sat out the entire fourth quarter of a comeback win in Denver this week. “I went scoreless. That hasn’t happened in a while,” Lamb said. “It still feels the same, score or not score. When you lose, you got to figure out how to just find ways to get better. Last game I had zero points but we won. It’s a lot easier to deal with that.”
  • T.J. McConnell has taken over the starting point guard duties while Malcolm Brogdon is sidelined with a concussion, Michael notes in a separate story. The former Sixer has been a valuable addition for Indiana after signing a two-year deal over the summer. Only the first season is guaranteed, but Michael states that the second one is considered a lock to be picked up.
  • In an interview with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard and general manager Chad Buchanan talk about what they look for in a player, the challenges that face a small-market team and the difficulty of trading Paul George in 2017. “We really thought that there was going to be 29 teams throwing the kitchen sink at us,” Pritchard said. “But at the end of the day, the number of teams that were after Paul was very small. I think there were just two offers that were real offers.”

Pacers Notes: Holiday, McConnell, Turner, Warren

More than one rival executive believes the Pacers will be open to trading either Aaron Holiday or T.J. McConnell before this year’s deadline, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

For now, both Holiday and McConnell are regular parts of the club’s rotation, combining for a total of 42.8 minutes per game. However, once Victor Oladipo returns to the lineup later this month, that extra backcourt depth may be a luxury the Pacers can afford to give up if they get an offer they like, Pincus suggests.

Both Holiday and McConnell are on team-friendly contracts. Holiday is making $2.24MM in the second year of his rookie deal and won’t be eligible for restricted free agency until 2022, while McConnell is earning $3.5MM and has an identical non-guaranteed cap hit for next season. Holiday’s age (23) makes him a more valuable asset than the 27-year-old McConnell, so if the Pacers do consider moving one of those two guards, the price would be higher for Holiday.

Here’s more on the Pacers:

  • The Pacers have played well with both Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner on the court this season, recording a +6.4 net rating, and sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe that Indiana continues to turn away teams that inquire on Turner.
  • Still, Lowe points out that Turner averages just nine shots per 36 minutes alongside Sabonis, compared to 16 per 36 minutes when Sabonis sits. Now that the team “belongs” to Malcolm Brogdon, Sabonis, and Oladipo, Lowe questions whether Turner will be content going forward with his part-time role, and suggests that every team in need of a big man should keep an eye on the situation in Indiana.
  • The NBA has fined Pacers wing T.J. Warren $25K and Heat swingman Jimmy Butler $35K for their altercation during Wednesday’s game, the league announced in a press release. Butler received the higher penalty in part for “escalating the incident on social media” after the game, the NBA said in its statement.

Eastern Notes: Love, McConnell, Celtics, Raptors

There’s “fresh optimism” that the Cavaliers will be able to deal power forward Kevin Love before next month’s trade deadline, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Love recently expressed frustration regarding his long-term status with the franchise. Love is in the first year of a four-year, $120.4MM extension. He’s averaging 16.5 PPG and 10.6 RPG in 30.6 MPG this season.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Sixers let point guard T.J. McConnell walk in free agency but the Pacers reserve doesn’t harbor ill will toward his previous team, Mark Monteith of the Indianapolis Star relays. McConnell signed a two-year, $7MM with Indiana, though his salary for next season isn’t guaranteed. McConnell recorded his first double-double of the season against his former club with 11 points and 10 assists on Tuesday. “Nothing but respect,” he said of Philadelphia’s organization. “I would never hold any grudges.”
  • Celtics fans should not expect a trade to upgrade the frontcourt, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. It’s unlikely they’ll find a deal for a quality big man that doesn’t involve moving one of the team’s top five players, Forsberg continues. They could add a proven role player before the trade deadline but they might be better off waiting to see which players wind up in the buyout market, Forsberg adds.
  • The Raptors’ quick start puts them in a tricky position regarding the trade market, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated notes. It was generally assumed that Toronto would be a seller with the ability to dangle the expiring contracts of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. The one-year extension handed to Kyle Lowry was done in part to make the veteran point guard more tradeable. But now there’s a window for the club to make a run at another championship, Mannix adds.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Central Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Central Division:

Bruce Brown, Pistons, 23, SG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.9MM deal in 2018
The Pistons will have a lot of tough decisions to make prior to the trade deadline and during next off-season. Guaranteeing Brown’s $1.66MM salary for next season will be the easiest one. Brown forced his way into the lineup last season as a defensive specialist. That’s still his calling card but he’s also shown he can play the point and his offensive game is developing. The 2018 second-round pick has averaged 16 PPG over the last three games. Coach Dwane Casey believes Brown’s offense will eventually catch up with his defense, which will make him a long-term starter in the league.

Kris Dunn, Bulls, 25, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $17.5MM deal in 2016
When Chicago acquired Tomas Satoransky in a sign-and-trade and drafted Coby White in the first round, Dunn entered training camp with no defined role. To his credit, the former lottery pick didn’t sulk. Otto Porter‘s injury has opened up steady playing time for Dunn in a smaller lineup. He’s an afterthought at the offensive end but he’s shown some defensive tenacity. This week, he hounded Bradley Beal into one of his worst shooting nights in recent years. The Bulls can make Dunn a restricted free agent by extending a $7MM qualifying offer (or $4.6MM if he doesn’t meet the starter criteria). That’s certainly not a given, but considering Dunn’s outlook in October, he’s at least positioning himself for a multi-year offer.

Jordan Clarkson, Cavaliers, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $50MM deal in 2016
Clarkson signed with superagent Rich Paul over the summer entering his walk year. That should help him land a multi-year contract when he hits unrestricted free agency in July. Clarkson is basically “doing his thing” again for the rebuilding Cavaliers, providing instant offense off the bench. He’s the team’s third-leading scorer (13.9 PPG) despite averaging just 22.7 MPG. Clarkson’s 3-point shooting (35.1%) is above his career average. If can become more consistent from long range, he’ll be even more valuable on the open market.

T.J. McConnell, Pacers, 27, PG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $7MM deal in 2019
McConnell was a starter for Philadelphia at the beginning of his career. He’s now settled in as a solid second-unit floor leader. McConnell lacks a 3-point shot but he’s adept at breaking down defenses and finding his teammates. He’s averaging 4.9 APG in just 17.7 MPG. After a ho-hum stretch, he’s perked up the last three games, averaging 10 PPG and 5.7 APG. His $3.5MM salary for next season is partially guaranteed. It’s hard to see Indiana letting McConnell go at that modest rate.

Ersan Ilyasova, Bucks, 32, PF (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $21MM deal in 2018
The Bucks already have enough salary commitments next season to put them over the projected cap. Milwaukee will have to decide before free agency whether to guarantee Ilyasova’s $7MM salary for next season. It’s a safe bet the Bucks will seek a cheaper and/or younger backup to superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. Ilyasova’s 3-point shooting has picked up lately but he’s still a subpar 32.8% for the season. He’s averaging 16.3 MPG, his lowest figure since his rookie season. Ilyasova will hook on somewhere next season as a reserve stretch four but likely at a reduced rate.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pacers Notes: Depth, Social Media, McDermott, McConnell

As the Pacers‘ All-NBA guard Victor Oladipo continues to recover from his ruptured quad tendon, coach Nate McMillan has had to turn to his team’s depth to win. And win they have, in resounding fashion: the Pacers are currently 14-8 in the East (and will be playing the Knicks tonight, so… we can go ahead and call it 15-8).

Summer addition Malcolm Brogdon and incumbent big man Domantas Sabonis have been the team’s standout players this season, but they’re not doing it alone.

Swingman Jeremy Lamb, another new summer signing, lauded the Pacers’ unselfish, equal-opportunity play as the reason behind their current resilience. Lamb, T.J. Warren, and Aaron Holiday have all made significant contributions as the Pacers have weathered injuries to Oladipo and Myles Turner (though Turner is healthy now). Their balanced scoring has the Pacers firmly entrenched in the East’s playoff hunt.

“It doesn’t always require a guy having a big night,” Lamb told Nathan Brown of the Indianapolis Star. “I looked up toward the end tonight and saw everyone on the floor had, like, 15 points. When you’ve got a really deep team, going through an 82-game season can be very taxing on your body, and the more able bodies you have is good.”

There’s more out of Indianapolis:

  • Mark Montieth of Pacers.com breaks down the long road to the NBA for Pacers backup point guard T.J. McConnell, who signed a two-year, $7MM deal this past summer. The Pittsburgh native rose from 5’8″ embattled coach’s son his freshman year in Bridgeville (he was once grounded for excess showmanship to his father/head coach Tim), averaging just 10 points for Pennsylvania’s Chartiers Valley High School, to a slash line of 34.2 PPG/8.2 RPG/9.1 APG, first-team all-state honors and being voted the Associated Press’ 3A Player of the Year, all while securing a 29-2 record plus a conference championship in his senior year. For more on McConnell’s path to the league, check out Montieth’s full story.
  • Following a choppy first season in Indiana, Pacers forward Doug McDermott has been settling in much better in year two, according to The Athletic’s Scott AgnessMcDermott, who signed a three-year, $22MM contract with Indiana in 2018, is taking 1.9 more field goals per game than last season, 1.0 more triples a game (and converting at a healthy 43.9%), and staying on the floor for three more minutes a night (20.4 minutes instead of 17.4). McDermott has enjoyed being used more as an offensive weapon for longer stretches this season. “Nate rides the hot hand a little now this year and it’s good to have the trust from him to be able to stay out that long,” McDermott added. “To help change the momentum of the game is something I take a lot of pride in.”
  • Another positive change in the injury-depleted Pacers’ locker room appears to have come about via some addition by subtraction. Scott Agness of The Athletic, in a separate piece, details why two of the three T.J.’s in the Pacers locker room (T.J. Leaf and McConnell) have recently gone relatively dark on social media. Myles Turner recently deactivated his Twitter account and deleted all his photos off his Instagram. Malcolm Brogdon recently deleted his Twitter account and primarily uses his Instagram account for branding, not for personal posts.

Atlantic Notes: McConnell, Hayward, Nets, Embiid

Former Sixers guard T.J. McConnell returned to Philadelphia when the Pacers took on the team Saturday night, marking his first time playing in Wells Fargo Center since changing teams in free agency this past summer.

“It’s good being back, seeing all of the faces and all of the people you build a relationship with,” McConnell said, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s a lot of great people here, and I miss them.”

McConnell, 27, joined the Pacers on a two-year deal last summer after spending four seasons with the Sixers. He quickly earned the respect of his coaches and fans during his stint with Philadelphia, appearing in at least 75 games in each of his four campaigns.

“Starting here, winning 10 games,” he said of the team going 10-72 his rookie season. “Then, at the end of my tenure here, you are one shot away from going to the Eastern Conference Finals. That’s a pretty incredible journey that we went on.”

McConnell has provided consistency and professionalism for the Pacers during the 2019/20 season, averaging seven points, 4.7 assists and 17.4 minutes in 17 games thus far.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division today:

  • Celtics forward Gordon Hayward will have another meeting with his doctor on Monday to determine the next steps in his recovery process, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter link). Hayward has missed the past three weeks due to a fractured hand, with his meeting on Monday set to take place over FaceTime, coach Brad Stevens said.
  • Sopan Deb of the New York Times examines how the Nets keep winning without three of their best players, detailing the strong teamwork, camaraderie and togetherness the group has shown in the wake of adversity. Brooklyn is currently without Kevin Durant (Achilles), Kyrie Irving (shoulder) and Caris LeVert (thumb).
  • Sixers center Joel Embiid was fueled by his first-ever scoreless game against the Raptors last week, Erin McCarthy of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Embiid finished that game with zero points on 0-for-11 shooting, but bounced back in the contests that followed. He scored 33 points on Wednesday, 27 points on Friday and 32 points on Saturday.

Central Notes: Mykhailiuk, Pistons, Irving, McConnell

Pistons second-year small forward Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is showing more effort on the defensive end and he’s getting more playing time as a result, Keith Langlois of the team’s website details. He scored a season-high 12 points in 22 minutes on Monday against Orlando and also cooled down Terrence Ross in the second half.

“We know who Svi is offensively, but his major challenge has been the defensive end,” Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said. “He still made a lot of mistakes (Monday), but he made up for it with hard play, compete, just being into Ross. … He was being physical, trying to get into Ross. Two weeks ago, he wouldn’t have been touching him. That’s a big first step for him.”

The Pistons hold a $1,663,861 team option on Mykhailiuk’s contract next season.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The win over the Magic was the beginning of a crucial stretch that could determine the future of the Pistons franchise, James Edwards of The Athletic writes. They could become sellers at the trade deadline and hit the reset button if things don’t turn around soon, Edwards notes.
  • While Kyrie Irving‘s stint with the Celtics ended badly, Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson has only good things to say about his former teammate, according to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer“My brother. Great teammate,” Thompson said. “At the end of the day, if I’m going to go to war, need a dog (who) can go and hoop I’m definitely going to put him on my team. I mean, the chatter is for you guys to talk about. Teams lose a couple of games and they say the same things about us — what’s going on and blah blah blah. It’s just chatter. At the end of the day, when that untucked Kyrie jersey is out everyone is scared.”
  • Pacers guard T.J. McConnell has averaged 11 PPG and 6.7 APG over the last six games and has gained a spot in the rotation, Nathan Brown of the Indianapolis Star writes. McConnell could be playing for his contract next season, as the team holds a $3.5MM option. “We knew coming in he was going to push our guards and compete for minutes, and he knew what his role was going to be,” coach Nate McMillan said. “But he’s earned the right to be out there.”