The Indiana Pacers needed guard depth after the departures of Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, and Tyreke Evans from last seasons team. Heading into the offseason, the squads backcourt rotation consisted solely of Aaron Holiday.
On day one of the free agency period, the front office went shopping and found themselves some guards in Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb. That helped, but that just fills out the top of the rotation. It didn’t complete the depth chart, which still had a need for some lesser pieces in case of injury.
The Pacers filled the depth slot today, signing former Philadelphia 76ers point guard T.J. McConnell. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN was the first person to report the partnership.
Soon after, Wojnarowski reported the contract was for two-years in length and a total of $7 million. That’s a cheap deal, so it’s already a low risk signing for Indiana. Even if McConnell doesn’t fit with the organization at all, the contract would end quickly. $3.5 million per season is a manageable figure. Both the length and value are reasonable.
Somehow, though, the deal looked better a few hours later. Michael Scotto of The Athletic reported that the second year of the contract is only $1 million guaranteed. McConnell effectively got one season and about $4.5 million guaranteed.
In theory, that is a bit pricey when exclusively factoring in role. Third string point guards who project to not play many minutes don’t fetch much money on the open market. But McConnell is the absolute best player you can have in that role. He’s a good defensive player who can finish at the rim at a high level. He’s got his flaws, some major, but he has enough skills to stay on the floor. That puts him at the apex of players in the “depth point guard” category.
Plus, McConnell is known for being an incorruptible teammate and a solid vet. He’s only 27, but after the Pacers reshaped the roster, he is one of the older players on the squad. That matters and adds to his value.
McConnell averaged 6.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game this past season. He did that in under 20 minutes per night, he was deft at inserting himself appropriately into many situations in Philly, which can be hard on a team where the wealth is spread thin in terms of touches. McConnell was a solid glue guy for them.
Victor Oladipo’s injury makes McConnell’s role at the start of the season unclear. He could be a third point guard behind Brogdon and Holiday, playing sparingly and providing most of his value off the court. The team could decide to move Brogdon to a more off-ball role at times to get McConnell a few minutes every contest alongside the newly acquired Jeremy Lamb or the aforementioned Brogdon.
The former option gives Holiday and Edmond Sumner the maximum amount of playing time, while the latter option gives the minutes to McConnell and Holiday.
Perhaps the choice between McConnell and Sumner could be matchup dependent. Head Coach Nate McMillan stated to the Indianapolis Star he would consider a similar strategy last season with Holiday and Sumner after Oladipo’s injury, though that never came to fruition.
“There’ll be some nights that we may look to go to him off the bench,” McMillan said after practice at St. Vincent Center. “There’s some nights where we can look at going with Ed off the bench instead of Aaron because it does give us more length.”
J Michael – Indy Star
We may not know what McConnell’s role will be until opening night, but we have precedent that says he may play some nights and not others. It will be fascinating to see how the coaching staff decides to deploy him.
T.J. McConnell will give the Pacers guard depth and veteran camaraderie, two things that the roster needed. His role and contract might not be perfect, but adding needed value to the team means the verdict is easy. The McConnell signing is a good one for Indiana.