The Philadelphia 76ers aren’t willing to let their fan favorite hit the open market.
The club plans to exercise its team option for T.J. McConnell for the 2018-19 season, general manager Bryan Colangelo said Friday during an exit interview.
The former Arizona Wildcat will make roughly $1.6 million next season, then will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Here’s what our friends at Liberty Ballers had to say about the move. They believe it will be McConnell’s last season in Philadelphia. as the Sixers will likely be looking to clear cap for 2019 free agency:
The decision made perfect sense with McConnell set to earn just $1.6 million, as having a rotation caliber player at such an affordable price is vital to Philadelphia’s current salary cap flexibility. It’s no secret that the team has its sights set on the pursuit of a high-level free agent, with LeBron James and Paul George the big names on the market.
The fact that McConnell will be around next year in Sixers red, white, and blue has to thrill fans of the 26-year-old point guard, a growing contingent on the heels of his tremendous playoff series against Boston. However, the flip side of picking up the option is that McConnell will now be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Given the current roster construction for the team, I would argue next season will be T.J.’s last in Philadelphia.
As mentioned, the Sixers are interested in signing the caliber of free agent worthy of a max contract in the coming months. If they miss out on the top guys, they will likely pull a repeat of last summer, signing players to top-dollar, one-year deals, in order to roll the cap space over a year to wait for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson to enter free agency.
So Philadelphia will either be employing its present cap space for a max-level player, or conserving it for such a player next summer. Furthermore, after this season, the Sixers will have to begin worrying about extensions for Ben Simmons and Dario Saric. All of which is to say that they won’t have the cap space to retain McConnell when he hits the open market
From McConnell’s perspective, while I’m sure he would ideally like to stay in Philadelphia, why should he take the proverbial hometown discount? After next season, he’ll have made just shy of $4.5M total across his four seasons in the league. I know that’s an enormous chunk of change for us regular joes on the 9-to-5 grind, but it’s a pittance for a modern NBA player. McConnell should absolutely be looking to maximize his earnings in his first chance at hitting free agency right in the middle of his prime.
McConnell averaged 6.3 points, 4.0 assists, and 3.0 seasons in 2017-18, which was his third NBA season.
The 26-year-old shot a career-high from the field (.499) and 3-point line (.435). Of course, McConnell is also known for his hard-nosed defense, basketball IQ, and infectious personality.
He ended the playoffs on a high note (at least individually), pouring in a career-high 19 points in a Game 4 win against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The Sixers, who won 52 games this season and are one of the league’s most up-and-coming teams, were then eliminated in Game 5.