Philadelphia 76ers: Brett Brown needs to free T.J. McConnell

(Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images) /

With Philadelphia 76ers fans begging to see Markelle Fultz play on Twitter, the player Brett Brown really should give more minutes to is T.J. McConnell.

Whenever the Philadelphia 76ers lose a game, win a game, or basically do anything of any note, basketball Twitter erupts with opinions ranging from well researched to totally off-the-wall, and when the team drops their second straight playoff game to their arch-rivals you better believe it’s going to get wild.

With fans questioning the team’s game plan, Brett Brown‘s timeout usage, and Ben SimmonsGame 2 struggles, one hashtag that got a surprising amount of traction over the course of the game was #FreeMarkelle.

An obvious reference to the recent #FreeMeek used by fans to show their support for local rapper Meek Mill, it appears as though many fans in the Twitterverse feel as though Markelle Fultz is being unfairly held out of the 76ers lineup, and should be getting playing time against the Boston Celtics depleted point guard rotation, highlighted by former benchwarmers Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin.

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Though their support for Fultz should be applauded, as he’s without a doubt the team’s combo guard of the future, and will surely play a lot next season, one player who Coach Brown really should find a way to get on the court more is small ball point guard T.J. McConnell.

McConnell, as any Sixers fan whose watch the team over the last three years knows, is one of the hardest-working players on the team, and after consistently being counted out, look down on, and ignored, has quietly carved out a pretty nice niche for himself in the professional basketball world.

The Cleveland Cavaliers did try to trade for him to fortify there 2017 championship run after all.

But unfortunately for McConnell, after playing heavily in the Sixers rotation over the first six months of the NBA season, the return of Fultz in March essentially sidelined McConnell.

Restricted to a much smaller role over the team’s final 10 games, and first playoff series against the Miami Heat, McConnell average only 12 minutes a game since March 24th, a far cry from the 22.4 minutes a game he averaged for the season, but even that couldn’t prevent McConnell from remaining productive and making the most of his limited time on the court.

And after being counted out once more, all of his hard work came to a head in the 76ers Game 2 loss to the Boston Celtics, where McConnell outplayed superstar starting point guard Ben Simmons and almost will the team to an unlikely victory.

Leading the team with a Real Plus-Minus of 16, a full 39 points higher than Simmons’ -23, McConnell recorded eight points, five assists, and a pair of steals in only 17 minutes of action, and flew around the court with a seemingly boundless level of energy that the team had sorely been lacking.

Holding down the one spot as Simmons foil, McConnell led his Sixers squad like a seasoned floor general, dishing dimes and getting players in position to make the most of their playing time, and help the team come back from a pair of deficits.

Simply put, if the Sixers are going to beat the odds and blow past the Celtics, McConnell needs more minutes.

Next: 3 reasons Game 2 was worst game of Ben Simmons career

Though it would be incredibly foolish and short-sighted to give him the nod in crunch time, as the Philadelphia 76ers are without a doubt Ben Simmons’ team, and removing him from a close game in its waning moments could be disastrous for his confidence, T.J. McConnell has earned a spot in the Philadelphia 76ers rotation moving forward, and if they are serious about make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, they’ll need the best rotation possible.