The Philadelphia 76ers fell short against the Boston Celtics in the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs but the team’s lone victory in the series was buoyed by the individual performance of backup guard T.J. McConnell. On the heels of that memorable effort in Game 4, Sixers GM Bryan Colangelo indicated publicly on Friday that Philadelphia plans to exercise the team option for McConnell to return for the 2018-2019 season.
This news come as no surprise, as McConnell’s option will pay him only $1.6 million for next season. While he will likely never approach “game-changer” status in Philadelphia, that is a bargain-level contract for a player that has proven effective in a reserve role, which makes Colangelo’s decision an easy one.
In the same breath, there is very little guaranteed for McConnell in terms of role next season, especially when considering the future of Markelle Fultz. If not for the injury concerns surrounding the former No. 1 overall pick, McConnell likely would have been relegated to a (very) sparse role in 2017-2018, which could be the case moving forward if Fultz can establish his presence as a high-end future piece. Still, the $1.6 million price tag for McConnell (especially given that it is non-guaranteed) represents a reasonable investment even for a third point guard and, if Fultz cannot make the next step, having McConnell is a strong insurance policy.
From a salary cap perspective, McConnell’s salary should have only a marginal effect on Philadelphia’s future plans, even with the looming potential of a high-end free agent pursuit. As of now, the Sixers project to have somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million in cap space but that number could quickly rise should Philadelphia find a taker for Jerryd Bayless and his $8.575 million salary for next season. Regardless, it makes sense to hang on to McConnell and, even if he isn’t locked in beyond the 2018-19 campaign, this example of a contract labeled as a “Hinkie Special” continues to pay dividends.