T.J. McConnell

Free Agent Stock Watch: Central Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. 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:

T.J. McConnell, Pacers, 28, PG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $7MM deal in 2019

McConnell delivered one of the rarest triple-doubles in NBA history this week. He became the first player to record a point-assist-steal triple-double since Mookie Blaylock in 1998 when he racked up 16 points, 13 assists and 10 steals against Cleveland on Wednesday. He also had a 17-point, 12-assist outing against New York on Saturday.

McConnell isn’t a 3-point threat, but he’s been maximizing his skills as one of Indiana’s top reserves this season, averaging a career-best 6.8 APG. He’s a good fit with the Pacers but he’ll attract interest from other teams as a solid second-unit floor general.

Saben Lee, Pistons, 21, PG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $449K deal in 2020

Lee was selected with the 38th overall pick in the draft and signed a two-way contract. He’s taking advantage of some unexpected playing time and showing he’s worthy of a spot on the 15-man roster. With Killian Hayes and Delon Wright sidelined by injuries, Lee has provided a spark off the bench behind recently-acquired Dennis Smith Jr. In Detroit’s last two victories, Lee had a 21-point, 4-assist performance against Orlando and a 20-point, 7-assist outing against Toronto. He needs to become more of a perimeter threat but he’ll fearlessly attack the basket and he’s endeared himself to the coaching staff with his work ethic.

Jarrett Allen, 22, C (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $10MM deal in 2017

With the awkwardness of sharing the center spot with Andre Drummond behind him, Allen has settled in as the Cavaliers’ main man in the middle. In 17 starts at center this season, Allen is averaging 16.2 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 2.2 APG and 1.7 BPG while shooting 69.5% from the field. It’s well-known that Cleveland has every intention of re-signing Allen as he enters restricted free agency. The intrigue will come if one of the teams with ample salary-cap space delivers a giant offer sheet. In any case, Allen will become a very rich man this summer.

Thaddeus Young, Bulls, 32, PF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $43.6MM deal in 2019

Young has a partially-guaranteed $14.19MM salary next season. He’ll get $6MM for sure; he’s giving the Bulls plenty of incentive to hand him the remaining $8.19MM and keep him off the free agent market. Young has been one of the best reserves in the league this season, providing the Bulls with a steady finisher at the rim (career-best 60.9% from the field) and plenty of rebounding. Coach Billy Donovan has turned Young into a playmaker and he’s embraced that responsibility, averaging a career-high 4.4 APG. If the Bulls opt to trade Young this month, they’ll get a decent haul in draft picks and/0r young players.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hawks Notes: Hunter, Reddish, Point Guard, Bogdanovic

Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter, who underwent a lateral meniscus arthroscopic debridement procedure earlier this week, won’t be back on the court for the team anytime soon. Addressing Hunter’s situation today on 92.9 The Game in Atlanta, general manager Travis Schlenk suggested that the 23-year-old will be sidelined until at least late March, and likely sometime in April.

“The doctors say, typically, on average, these things are seven to 10 weeks,” Schlenk said, per Mike Conti of 92.9 The Game. “And most of the guys are ready to go by eight weeks. So, we’re hopeful.”

The Hawks’ initial announcement on Hunter indicated that his status would be updated when he’s re-evaluated in two weeks. According to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link), the club hopes to have a clearer idea at that point about which end of the seven-to-10 week timeline is more likely to apply to Hunter.

Here’s more out of Atlanta:

  • Chris Kirschner of The Athletic explores what Hunter’s absence will mean for the Hawks in the short term and the long term, noting that the pressure on new starting small forward Cam Reddish will increase. Kirschner also expects Atlanta to play it safe with Hunter’s return timeline to help avoid any recurring knee issues.
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Kirschner and John Hollinger discussed a few Hawks-related topics, including the hole at backup point guard that Rajon Rondo hasn’t adequately filled. Hollinger, who questioned Atlanta’s decision not to claim Elfrid Payton when New York waived him in November, suggested that Payton, George Hill, Delon Wright, and T.J. McConnell could be potential targets if Atlanta tries to shore up the position via trade.
  • Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, who was only able to play nine games for his new team before being sidelined by a right knee fracture, spoke to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the injury and his goal to return before the end of the first half. “Anything before All-Star would be really good for me, but I don’t want to put the pressure on it,” Bogdanovic said. “But I would like to play before the All-Star (break), if it was me, and if my body heals up.”

Pacers Notes: LeVert, Lamb, McConnell, Turner

Caris LeVert is sidelined indefinitely after a mass was discovered on his kidney, but Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard believes there’s a chance he could play this season, tweets Eric Woodyard of ESPN. No timetable has been set on a possible return, and the team will decide how to proceed depending on the results of further testing.

“As soon as we found this out, all eyes were trying to help Caris,” Pritchard said. “This organization is going to step up.” (Twitter link)

The mass was discovered during a physical that LeVert was required to take after being sent from Brooklyn to Indiana this week as part of a four-team deal. The Pacers could have voided the trade after the mass was discovered, but they opted to take a chance on LeVert.

“There’s risks, we’re willing to accept that risk but there’s also a human element in that,” Pritchard said (Twitter link). He added that everyone on the Pacers’ management team was comfortable with completing the deal, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter link).

There’s more from Indianapolis:

  • The Pacers dealt with the Rockets to acquire LeVert rather than trying to get him from the Nets, according to Agness (Twitter link). Pritchard credits general manager Chad Buchanan with leading the effort. “We didn’t feel like we could get Caris directly from Brooklyn,” Pritchard said. “We needed a third team.”
  • Guard Jeremy Lamb is nearing a return from an ACL tear in his left knee that he suffered last February, writes Michael McCleary of The Indianapolis Star. Coach Nate Bjorkgren said today that when he asked Lamb how he was feeling, he responded with a “thumbs up.” Lamb was a starter last season and averaged 12.5 points in 46 games before the injury. “I’m not saying that means (he’ll return) tomorrow, but it’s getting very close,” Bjorkgren said.
  • T.J. McConnell has adjusted his game to the offseason coaching change, writes J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. McConnell has nearly abandoned his turnaround jumpers in the lane under Bjorkgren, who prefers layups and open 3-pointers. “He’s a guy who takes himself for granted,” said teammate Malcolm Brogdon. “When you talk to him he doesn’t understand how good he is. His IQ on the floor, knowing who to get the ball to, when to get the ball to him.”
  • Myles Turner is focused on winning Defensive Player of the Year honors, according to Alex Kennedy of Basketball News. He’s leading the league with 4.2 blocks per game, more than six entire teams. “I’m being more aggressive defensively,” Turner said. “I’m going after more shots and putting myself in position to be successful in that area.”
  • The Pacers received $2.6MM from the Nets in the revised four-team trade, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Indiana created a $4.79M trade exception, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link).

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.