t.j. mcconnell

Sixers exercise team options on T.J. McConnell, Richaun Holmes

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Sixers exercise team options on T.J. McConnell, Richaun Holmes

Brett Brown has made his first official transactions as interim head of basketball operations.

The Sixers on Wednesday exercised team options on T.J. McConnell and Richaun Holmes for 2018-19, each carrying a $1.6 million value. Both of the contracts are non-guaranteed and don't become guaranteed until Jan. 10, 2019, meaning the Sixers can still waive McConnell or Holmes to create cap space.

Both players will now be entering the final season of their current four-year deals and hit unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2019, unless they're extended. Had the Sixers declined the team options, they would've become restricted free agents this summer. 

In his third NBA season, McConnell averaged 6.3 points, 4.0 assists, and 3.0 rebounds in 22.4 minutes. The backup point guard really shined in the Sixers' second-round playoff series against the Celtics, where he was inserted into the starting lineup in Game 4 and powered the Sixers to a win.

While there is some risk with setting up McConnell to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, the Sixers can't afford to tie up any more of their cap space as they shoot for max free agents this summer.

Holmes was in and out of the rotation last season, only appearing in 48 games as Brown ultimately favored Amir Johnson as his backup center. When he wasn't receiving a DNP-CD, Holmes averaged 6.5 points and 4.4 rebounds in 15.5 minutes per game.

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Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: T.J. McConnell

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: T.J. McConnell

T.J. McConnell

Position: Point guard/shooting guard

Status for 2018-19: Team option will be exercised for $1,600,520

McConnell in 2017-18
Improbably, the undrafted McConnell has become an integral part of "The Process." He was certainly here in the dark days, sharing minutes with Kendall Marshall and Ish Smith and suffering through seemingly endless losing streaks — McConnell, Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes are the only survivors from the 10-win 2015-16 Sixers. This season, the fan-favorite guard was spearheading playoff victories.

McConnell’s “spark,” the unmatched passion and energy he brings every night, is what he’s all about. It’s why so many people love him. But his value lies beyond raw hustle and intensity — McConnell is the best Sixer off the bench at hounding opposing guards and probing the paint. He forces you to play him.

This season, he also forced opponents to respect his shot. After making just 20 percent of his three-point attempts in 2016-17, McConnell worked on his jumper in the summer and saw results, shooting 43.5 percent from long range.

When Markelle Fultz made his surprise return to the lineup on March 26, McConnell nearly dropped out of the rotation — he played just 14.5 minutes per game in the final 10 regular-season games. Still, McConnell has always been supportive of Fultz, and he didn’t get discouraged — when you’ve had to live through one of the worst seasons in NBA history, it takes something bigger than diminished playing time to get you down.

When his moment came, McConnell was ready …

Signature game
If any Sixer had a signature game this season, it was McConnell’s insane Game 4 against the Celtics.

McConnell took Covington’s spot in the starting lineup, and he made Brett Brown look like a genius. With a career-high 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists along with stellar defense on Terry Rozier, McConnell helped the Sixers keep their season alive.

Game 4 wasn’t a total fluke for McConnell. In the series against the Celtics, he shot 19 for 26. When McConnell was on the court, the Sixers were plus-41, the best of any player from either team.

Prior to Game 4, McConnell had a couple other decent contenders for his signature game. In his only start of the regular season on Nov. 25 vs. Orlando, with Ben Simmons sidelined with a left elbow injury, McConnell posted 15 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds.

And on Feb. 12, McConnell notched his first career triple-double, recording 10 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds against the Knicks. He became the first Sixer in franchise history with a triple-double off the bench.

Looking ahead to 2018-19
At his end-of-season press conference, Bryan Colangelo confirmed the Sixers will exercise McConnell’s team option.

Since we know McConnell will be back, the biggest question is, how Brown will find minutes for him? If McConnell is playing at a high level and Fultz isn’t early in the season, Brown will be in a pretty awkward situation.

Even if Fultz has a slow start, you’d assume that the No. 1 overall pick, who’s set to make more than five times as much as McConnell, would take a significant number of his minutes.

After next season, McConnell becomes an unrestricted free agent. Given how he’s proved himself on the big stage, he should be in for a nice payday.

On McConnell
“It’s tough. T.J. is the type of guy that you have to play him. He proved that this series against Boston. Without him in Game 4, I don’t think we win that game. He’s proven to you that you have to play him. He’s going to do his best, he’s going to play hard, he’s going to press full court. He’s going to do his job offensively, that’s to share the ball, and if he’s open, he’s going to shoot it. But we got a great coaching staff. Coach Brown was amazing all year. The assistant coaches … all those guys were amazing. So they’re going to figure it out. But I’m excited. It’s going to be fun.”

- Joel Embiid on Fultz possibly taking away from McConnell’s playing time next season

JJ Redick says Sixers should go after LeBron James if they have the chance

JJ Redick says Sixers should go after LeBron James if they have the chance

The Sixers have made their intentions for the summer very clear: secure a top-tier free agent to help them compete for a championship.

JJ Redick is now a desired free agent in his own right, but even he knows the Sixers have a more royal outlook.

“I’m not just speaking about the 76ers here, just in general, if you have the chance to get LeBron James, you go for it and you figure out the rest later,” Redick said on The Bill Simmons podcast Wednesday.

The Sixers’ potential addition of James could mean Redick would be squeezed out, but the shooting guard understands it’s a part of the business.

“My dad, when I was growing up, he said this to me all the time and I say this to my 4-year-old all the time too: it’s not always about you,” Redick said. “In my career, it is about me and my career, but I recognize that in this sport, in a team sport with all these complicated cap things and a front office’s desire to do certain things, timelines, age and all that stuff, I recognize it’s not always about me. It’s not about me. I’m OK with that.”

If Redick doesn’t suit up in a Sixers uniform again, he admitted that this past season was one of the best experiences of his career. And that it was among the most bitter endings in his 12-year stint in the league.

“I would say, as of right now, it was as disappointing as 2010 and 2015,” Redick said. “When you feel you leave a little bit on the table, it’s harder to deal with. … The playoffs and sort of this trophy, this prize that you’re chasing that you think about, that you dream about, when you’re on a team where you feel like you have a chance, and it ends, and it ends abruptly. Two Wednesdays ago, you’re thinking we have a home game Friday night. You’re playing for a home game Friday night. You’re planning to play Game 7 in Boston on Sunday. And then it just ends.

“It hits you really hard. When I think about the emotions in the locker room after those losses, Game 5 in Boston was like Game 7 in Houston in ’15 and Game 6 in Boston in 2010 when we lost in the Eastern Conference Finals.”

To hear Redick talk more about the series with the Celtics, his intense friendship with T.J. McConnell and much more, click here for the full podcast.