Pacers Report Cards: Grading every Pacers player at season's end

With the playoffs on the way, now is a good time to give out end-of-season grades for every Pacers player.
Mar 16, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA;  Indiana Pacers forward Pascal Siakam (43) celebrates with
Mar 16, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Pascal Siakam (43) celebrates with / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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T.J. McConnell

Stats: 71 Games, 18.2 MPG, 10.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 1.5 TOV, 1.1 FPG 55.6/40.9/79 Splits on 58.6% TS

2022-23 Stats: 75 Games, 20.3 MPG, 8.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 1.9 TOV, 1.4 FPG 54.3/44.1/85.3 Splits on 59% TS

Man, talk about a lifesaver.

T.J. McConnell, a player who was getting DNPs and who many people were calling for to be taken out of the rotation, myself included, played a huge part in saving the Indiana Pacers' season. To tell his full story, we have to go back to the start of the season.

In the Pacers' first 17 games, McConnell logged six DNPs and averaged 14 minutes per game while being relatively unproductive. So unproductive in fact, that many were calling for him to be taken out of the rotation and for those minutes to be given to Jarace Walker instead.

At that point, it seemed like McConnell's magic was wearing off and he lost his touch as a player. His inbound steals were becoming less and less frequent and he looked more and more like someone who should only be brought in during blowouts.

Then, the Tyrese Haliburton injury happened.

Despite only starting three games in the final 44 games of the season, McConnell was arguably Indiana's second most productive player for a long stretch after the Haliburton injury. In those 44 games, he upped his averages to 11.9 points and 5.8 assists while shooting 56.3% from the field and 53.1% from deep, an unprecedented number for a non-shooter like himself.

Pacers fans who dreaded McConnell minutes earlier in the season now anticipated them with bated breath, as he took over in plenty of games during the season and led Indiana to many victories, even outplaying Tyrese Haliburton during these stretches.

It cannot be overstated how valuable McConnell was to the Pacers in the second half of the season, with his point guard play saving Indiana from struggling completely after Haliburton's post-injury slump and giving them life during multiple crucial moments, like the game against Miami to snatch the sixth seed for good.

The Indiana Pacers have the best bench in the league, and most of that is due to T.J. McConnell. When McConnell is on the floor he makes everyone better and made his case this season as a legit Sixth Man of the Year candidate. From his connection with Bennedict Mahurin to his own ability in isolation, he was fantastic.

Whether it be his Steve Nash-esque dribbles under the rim, his inbound steals, labeled by Quinn Buckner as a "McConnell," or his leaning/turnaround mid-range jumper which seemingly never misses, T.J. McConnell was a godsend to the Indiana Pacers in the 2023-24 season. Once seen as an afterthought and hindrance to the team, McConnell can now anticipate heavy playoff minutes as he hopes to help bother Damian Lillard into some tough shooting nights.

Final Grade: A+ (Proved everyone wrong and made his mark)