Sixers: How does T.J. McConnell affect draft strategy?

Jan 21, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard T.J. McConnell (1) dribbles against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 21, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard T.J. McConnell (1) dribbles against the Atlanta Hawks in the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

With all the talk about Ben Simmons running the point for the Sixers, there seems to be a forgotten man in that equation.

That man is Sixers point guard, T.J. McConnell. McConnell had a breakout year of sorts for the team last year averaging 6.9 points per game and 6.6 assists per game. This is while he also took the reigns on the starting job from Sergio Rodriguez who likely won’t return to the team next year.

McConnell showed that he can be a solid backup in the league or even a fringe starter for some teams giving the Sixers flexibility in the upcoming NBA Draft. His presence means that the Sixers don’t have to reach on a lesser guard prospect like De’Aaron Fox just because they need a point guard. If Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball don’t fall to the third position there are two options for the team to add another guard to the team.

They can trade back with the Sacramento Kings to pick up picks 5 and 10 or take the best player available (likely Josh Jackson) at three and wait until one of their second rounders to take a guard that can contribute to the team. Because it’s more plausible to work with picks that you already have, I’ll focus on possible second round prospects for the Sixers.

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Melo Trimble: University of Maryland

Due to no fault of his own, Trimble is coming off of a disappointing season for the Terripans. Trimble’s stock would have been higher if he chose to stay in the draft in 2016 but returning for his junior season ended up hurting his draft placement. But while Trimble’s stock has fallen his leadership skills took a big boost by staying in school. Trimble led a young Maryland team littered with injuries to the NCAA Tournament and that should not be overlooked. A prospect should never be written off by one bad year but that’s what is happening to Trimble.

His ability to get to the free throw line and passing acumen are top notch and while his three point percentages leave much to be desired, Trimble could be a second unit rotational player. Trimble could also look to cut down on turnovers while improving defensively but what better person to learn that from than T.J. McConnell?

Frank Mason: Kansas

Let’s begin with this, as a prospect Frank Mason is old at 23 years of age but that doesn’t mean that he should be overlooked. Mason averaged 20.9 points per game while performing at a consistent pace across the board for the Jayhawks. Where Sixers fan’s eyes should perk up is that he shot the ball at a 47(!) percent clip from three-point land for Kansas. Mason also has good physical tools to be an impact NBA guard. Adding in that Mason averaged 5.2 assists per game compared to 2.4 turnovers per game and he could thrive with the second unit.

Mason’s biggest drawback is his size only standing at 5’11” but his physical tools more than compensate for it. Mason is a guy who could make an impact in the NBA especially if he continues the upward trajectory that he was on during his college years.

P.J. Dozier: University of South Carolina

Dozier is already a guy on the Sixers’ radar as one of 20 prospects that they interviewed during the NBA Draft Combine. Dozier was the second leading scorer for South Carolina averaging 13.9 points per game. The 20-year-old is the youngest prospect on this list and he could have some upside if the Sixers choose him over a more polished prospect. Physically, Dozier has the tools that make scouts drool but his issue will be mastering those skills professionally.

Dozier isn’t a great shooter and can tend to get into foul trouble but as a second round pick those risks are minimized. Add in the fact that the Sixers have four second rounders and spending one on a project pick isn’t an issue at all.

Next: Sixers 2017 offseason checklist

Sindarius Thornwell: University of South Carolina

The reigning SEC Player of the Year offers an interesting late round option for the Sixers. Averaging 21.4 points per game, Thornwell could offer a shot to the offense but at 22 the question is how much development does he have left to do. Thornwell is a strong two-way player with leadership qualities but concerns about his release may keep him off of Sixers draft boards.