Philadelphia 76ers: Should the Phoenix Suns trade for T.J. McConnell?

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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After trading for Ryan Anderson early this morning, could the Phoenix Suns fill their starting five with Philadelphia 76ers’ point guard T.J. McConnell?

T.J. McConnell is one of the most popular players on the entire Philadelphia 76ers‘ roster.

A blue-collar, started from the bottom lunch pail point guard, McConnell has captured the hearts of fans throughout his home state of Pennsylvania, including my own mom, who likes Timothy John more than even the team’s superstars like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

But unfortunately, McConnell’s place in the City of Brotherly Love is slowly being squeezed out.

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While we all know that 2017 first overall pick Markelle Fultz is eventually going to ascend into a serious role with the Sixers, it’s pretty clear that McConnell isn’t going to be heavily featured in the team’s plans moving forward, as they went so far as to select not one, but two college point guards in the 2018 NBA Draft.

And with good reason.

For how great McConnell has been on a court as a pesky defender with sneaky offensive abilities, and even his own signature shot, the TJ, he’s simply too one dimensional to be a fit on Brett Brown‘s post-Simmons roster.

But at the same time, it’s not like he’s a bad player either.

Easily one of the team’s top eight players last year, McConnell made the most of every opportunity he had to get on the court, even if it was a bit of a mixed bag down the stretch. If it wasn’t for McConnell, the team may have been straight swept by the Boston Celtics in the 2018 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

McConnell’s Game Four performance alone should cement the 6-foot-2 point guard in the annals of Philly sports history as a minor folk hero.

But what if the team was made an offer they couldn’t refuse for their third-year guard?

What if some team, hungry to exit the NBA’s basement with a recently facelifted roster thought they were a point guard away from taking a major step forward and was willing to part with an asset to bring a player like T.J. into the fold?

What if that team also just so happened to be located right down the road from McConnell’s college alma mater and had just selected his fellow alumnus with the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft?

That’s right, I’m talking about the Phoenix Suns.

After recently completing a trade with the Houston Rockets to flip underperforming former eighth-overall pick Marquese Chriss and oft-injured guard Brandon Knight for Ryan Anderson and De’Anthony Melton in the wee hours of August 31st, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski hinted that the Suns may still be looking to acquire a point guard to complete their starting five going into the 2018-2019 NBA season.

McConnell checks that box.

As a wily field general with three years of experience navigating a team through the rebuilding process with a dominant center at the five, McConnell’s A-plus vision and basketball IQ could be a major asset to first-year head coach Igor Kokoškov, who dominated the EuroBasket with eventual third overall pick Luka Doncic running the show.

While McConnell and Doncic are far from the same player, they do possess a similar skill set: great vision, good hands, and a mediocre outside shot.

With Devin Booker, Trevor Ariza, and now Ryan Anderson locked into place at the two, three, and four, the Suns’ roster is practically tailor-made for a player like McConnell.

As one of the most selfless point guard in the league, McConnell could be a perfect backcourt mate for Booker moving forward, as he wouldn’t fret the team’s new max contract player wanting to run the show from time to time on-ball, while consistently doing the dirty work at both ends of the court.

But would the Sixers actually trade McConnell to the Suns?

Yes.

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After making a draft-day trade with the Suns earlier this year, and shipping Richaun Holmes out west a few weeks later, it’s clear the two organizations have a solid relationship, and likely wouldn’t fret having to make another deal just prior to the start of the 2018-2019 NBA season.

Furthermore, by shipping out McConnell, the team would likely be able to incorporate a player like Landry Shamet into their rotation during the regular season, allowing the Wichita State combo guard to develop his game on basketball’s highest stage.

Post-McConnell life in Philly is so imminent that the team went out of their way to re-sign Demetrius Jackson to his second two-way contract before the season began to ensure that they can continue to develop the former Notre Dame guard moving forward.

That was no mistake.

Furthermore, while McConnell is a great player, if GM Brown could flip him for someone else who fits Coach Brown’s scheme better, why not at least consider making a deal?

Granted, the team isn’t going to get someone like Josh Jackson or even Mikal Bridges back for McConnell, but wouldn’t a player like Dragan Bender, Dario Saric‘s Croatian EuroBasket teammate be a better fit alongside Simmons as a position-less big man shooter than attempting to play T.J. alongside Fultz as an undersized shooting guard?

Or what about a player like Troy Daniels?

A career 40 percent three-point shooter over the last five years, the 6-foot-4 two-guard would be a much better reliever to J.J. Redick than McConnell, and could potentially even elevate himself to a Marco Belinelli-esque scorer off the bench when paired with passers like Simmons or Fultz.

Could Daniels and a second round pick be enough to bring McConnell back to the Grand Canyon State?

Or hey, maybe Philly could throw in their own future second-round pick, and secure both players for a package of McConnell and odd-man-out Jerryd Bayless.

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With the vast majority of the NBA’s starting caliber point guards already spoken for this offseason, T.J. McConnell should be at the top of the Phoenix Suns acquisitions list. Though it would certainly hurt to lose the Pittsburgh-born point guard after all he’s done with the team, if the Philadelphia 76ers can deliver him to a better situation, while also improving their own roster in the process, it could be a win-win for everyone involved.