Indiana Pacers: TJ McConnell should be poised for a bounce-back season

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

Despite some reports pointing to a possible exit from the Circle City, veteran point guard TJ McConnell remains as part of the Indiana Pacers roster. In fact, with Malcolm Brogdon and Duane Washington Jr. now out of the equation, he could be poised for a bounce-back season after missing most of the previous campaign due to injury.

One of the best backup floor generals in the league at his best, McConnell’s 2021-22 season was cut short. And with the Pacers bringing in Tyrese Haliburton to lead a crusade of young players, his status on the team was blurry at one point. However, with the team now thin at point guard beneath the budding star, McConnell should have a steady spot in Rick Carlisle’s rotation.

TJ McConnell could regain his significant role with the Indiana Pacers next season

Andrew Nembhard, the Indiana Pacers’ 31st pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, could reasonably snatch the backup point guard spot, but Rick Carlisle is more likely to let TJ McConnell retain his role, not only because of his preference to have a veteran playmaker lead the second unit (JJ Barea, anyone?), but because the sneaky point guard is a perfect fit for the team’s high-octane attack.

As seen in his career year under Nate Bjorkgren in the 2020-21 season, McConnell flourishes as a pace manipulator in the open floor, confusing defenders by circling around angles and seeking crevices in the defense to sneak in passes or to contour his body for quick layups. Even in the half court, you will notice him deliberately playing at a different pace, compensating for his lack of a reliable perimeter shot by attacking any available space.

On defense, McConnell demands constant precaution, as he is the best in the business at pressuring inbound passes and exploiting weak ball pushers. Despite being a bench player, he nearly led the league in steals per game in his last full campaign.

Given that Indiana is finally playing like what its moniker suggests, McConnell should have the ideal platform that can allow his to maximize his strengths. No, he will not be a scoring savant and he may cost the Pacers some possessions when the defense leaves him open for threes, but as the leader of the second unit, he should not have any more ill-fitting off-ball roles. The team’s renewed pace could very well benefit him the most.

The Indiana Pacers may ride on their young core to carry them for the most part next season, but TJ McConnell, one of the team’s only veterans, could teach the youngsters a thing or two by playing his game and perhaps turning a lot of heads again, especially those of his prospective victims when inbounding the ball.

Next. One bold prediction for every projected Pacers starter next season. dark