We like to joke around here about all the qualities ascribed to T.J. McConnell that tend to follow players like him—”he’s a real gym rat,” and an actual coach’s son, for Christ’s sake—but he proved last season that he deserves every bit of that respect. And he has been awarded for it by his Sixers teammates, who voted McConnell the Best Teammate in the Players Voice awards for 2016-17.
This one was a bit of a surprise for me, because I expected one of the more grizzled veterans to earn this distinction, like Gerald Henderson, given that he’d come in with a reputation as a good clubhouse guy. In the season prior, the team gave the distinction to Carl Landry, and it seemed like the natural progression after that vote.
When you think about it, though, McConnell winning makes a lot of sense. He and Dario Saric have quite the interesting relationship, with the two men shouting at each other at times, but generally McConnell is a stable, if unspectacular presence on the floor. Around the practice facility, he’s noticeably friendly to the various people coming in and out of the Sixers’ gym, whether they’re assorted team personnel or one of his teammates.
I think what happens with McConnell this season is a bit of an underrated subplot. Markelle Fultz will be the alpha dog in the backcourt, and Jerryd Bayless will return from injury and expect a decent chunk of minutes.
The veteran Bayless is presumably a better offensive fit alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, simply because he can space the floor, but McConnell’s teammates showed a lot of respect for him last season as both a teammate and a surprisingly-clutch performer. He’s not going to cede his spot in the rotation without a fight, and if the situation is no longer right here, maybe they end up moving him to a team that needs help in their backcourt. The reigning Eastern Conference champs came looking for his services last season.
The future is uncertain for McConnell, but he has become a fan favorite and locker room staple for the Process-era Sixers. For that, he can definitely be proud.
Here’s the full list of players from the both conferences that were awarded the honor: