T.J. McConnell has kept up with the 76ers’ ascension. The point guard has gone from a capable rotation player on a tanking team to a capable rotation player on a good team. He’s definitely worth keeping at his minimum-salary team option for next season ($1,600,520).
But by Philadelphia exercising his option, McConnell would become an unrestricted free agent in 2019. If the 76ers declined his option, they could make him a restricted free agent this summer and more tightly control his long-term future.
So, there was a real decision to make.
President of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said Friday the Sixers will exercise McConnell’s contract option.
Because of his physical limitations, the 6-foot-2 McConnell tops out as a solid backup. He’s already 26, suggesting he’s near his ceiling if he hasn’t hit it already. Better to guarantee another bargain year out of him, especially because that saved money can go toward bigger goals. If he walks in 2019, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
The 76ers might even prefer he walk by that point.
McConnell stepped up during an arduous rookie year for No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz. But Fultz has far more upside as the traditionally sized point guard who sometimes pairs with Ben Simmons and sometimes initiates the offense himself. Ideally for Philadelphia, Fultz would seize that role and make McConnell expendable.
In the meantime, McConnell will finish off his Hinkie Special contract and provide the 76ers with insurance behind and next to Simmons.