Indiana Pacers: Why TJ McConnell’s contract may not age well

Indiana Pacers, TJ McConnell - Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers, TJ McConnell - Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /

With the Indiana Pacers entering the 2021-22 NBA season on a resolute win-now mentality, the front office made sure to retain the services of point guard TJ McConnell in the offseason, inking the seven-year veteran to a 4-year, $35 million deal after tallying a career year in the previous campaign.

Touted as one of the best bench operators in the league at the point guard position, re-signing McConnell made perfect sense. While the extent of his contract was a bit surprising, his annual salary was well within his perceived market value, especially with his multifaceted skillset on both ends.

However, what has transpired around the team lately could make his contract harder to digest moving forward.

With a shift in direction, the Indiana Pacers could flinch from TJ McConnell’s contract

Following news of the Indiana Pacers pivoting to be more congenial toward rebuilding, reports surfaced about TJ McConnell possibly being lost for the season due to a hand surgery to fix a torn ligament in his right wrist, which held him out since the Washington game.

Now, the Pacers brass aren’t only less committal on winning with their current core, but they will now be in limbo with one of their win-now players in McConnell. While the heady floor general is a quality backup who should fetch some suitors, his contract could derail all those, assuming Indiana indeed goes full throttle on starting from scratch.

In a rebuild, McConnell makes little sense. Not only is his skillset much more conducive to win-now basketball, but his presence alone will demand significant court time, which is counterproductive to developing young players. If the front office kicks off the trade domino this season, TJM will be an obvious follow-up, but his injury may make that a lot tougher than expected.

Problem is, not a lot of teams have the personnel like Indy’s to constantly let McConnell be the primary ball handler, a requirement since the sneaky point guard is negligible from three-point land. Despite his clear assertiveness on the ball as a playmaker and as a defender, the roster, albeit the second unit, has to be tailored to his strengths, a lofty demand to facilitate a player who’s a sixth man at best.

In addition, his four-year, $35 million contract, while reasonable, is nearer to an overpay than a bargain, salary and length considered. Finding a suitor for McConnell, who can essentially only play one position, could be a tall task. As the Pacers inch closer to a rebuild, the need to move him—if they can—should be heeded at the earliest opportunity.

Make no mistake—I love TJ McConnell. He is a culture amplifier who seems to be just as good of a person as he is a basketball player. However, with the Indiana Pacers appearing ready to make an unusual shift, his contract, backed by a previous win-now trajectory, may not age well moving forward.

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