Why the Pacers are lucky to have T.J. McConnell

T.J. McConnell, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
T.J. McConnell, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Malcolm Brogdon isn’t the only new point guard making an impact for the Indiana Pacers. T.J. McConnell has flourished as the general of the second unit.

In the game of basketball, the most important position on the court is the point guard. Why? Point guards are the player with the ball in their hands the most while also having the responsibility of orchestrating teammates on where to be on the court both offensively and defensively.

The Pacers (20-9) are one of the few teams in the NBA that have two point guards who are able to perform at a high level: starter Malcolm Brogdon and reserve T.J. McConnell.

While McConnell isn’t the scorer that Brogdon is, the reserve point guard knows how to initiate an offense and find his teammates when open.

Although McConnell is playing a career-low 17.7 minutes per game, he has registered 136 assists through 27 games with Pacers. That comes out to 5 assists per game, which is second on the team.

McConnell has also been impressive taking care of the basketball with his minuscule 1.3 turnovers per contest.

His 3.66 assist-to-turnover ratio is the highest on the Indiana Pacers roster. When on the floor McConnell is the Pacers’ best decision-maker.

No performance shows this more than his 11 assists and only two turnovers in Indiana’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies back on November 25.

On top of that, McConnell is converting 92.2 percent of his free-throw attempts this season, which is second on the team. He only takes 6.1 shots per game but has connected on over 50% of those attempts

McConnell isn’t just showing his worth through traditional stats.

For the advanced stat nerds, he’s posting career-highs in player efficiency rating (17.4), offensive rating (111), and defensive rating (105).

McConnell is baring the load on both ends of the floor and doing it efficiently.

McConnell also brings the intangibles, energy and leadership are his specialties. When watching Indiana play, he is constantly leading fast breaks for the second unit or diving on the floor for a loose ball. These are major parts of why he was signed by the Pacers.

Indiana head coach Nate McMillian discussed earlier in the season how he “knew [T.J.] brought a lot of grit” coming from the Philadelphia Sixers and from the fact he was undrafted out of Arizona. On top of that his teammates love him. You don’t get the nickname “Sunshine” from people that don’t like you around.

McConnell went through “The Process” while in Philly and saw the transition first-hand from laughing-stock of the NBA to championship contender. That type of experience in a player’s first four seasons in the league is something few players go through.

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It left McConnell more mentally tough and gave him the tenacious vibe he carries to this day. The Pacers are extremely lucky to have a back-up point guard that combines box score success with the intangibles needed to be successful.