Taking Stock of an Emerging Tandem

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

Heading into their latest homestand, the 76ers were hopeful to continue experimenting with personnel combinations, a primary goal of the team in the aftermath of the Jimmy Butler trade.

En route to wins over the New York Knicks, Washington Wizards, and Memphis Grizzlies, one pairing that revealed itself in a major way was that of the four-time All-Star, and the Sixers’ four-year grit star, T.J. McConnell.

The duo produced an eye-opening 44.6 net rating (119.0 offensive rating / 74.4 defensive rating) in 38 total minutes during their club’s recent three-game stay in South Philadelphia.

While that data might not offer the greatest sample size, it does portray the emergence of an encouraging development.

“The numbers would support this, they’re doing well together,” Brett Brown said of Butler and McConnell. 

A lot of which, according to Brown, can be attributed to McConnell’s style of play.

“T.J. is a motor, he’s a point guard in a traditional sense,” said Brown. “Jimmy reaps the benefit of playing with that type of point guard.”

Butler himself doesn’t disagree.

“I like T.J., always have,” Butler said.

In a few, yet important ways, he and McConnell are simpatico, from a personality standpoint. They both work hard, play with an edge, and relish competition.

“We’ve always kept in touch, spoke to each other before games,” said Butler. “He just plays his role so incredibly well. He’s such an unselfish teammate, he wants to win. I think whenever you have guys like that running the point guard position, you can’t help but to love him.”

Butler feels similarly about Ben Simmons.

As it turned out, in the final minutes of Sunday’s gutsy 103-95 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, all three were on the court to close out the game.

Brown is intrigued to find out more about what versatile weapons like Butler and Simmons can do when teamed with the reliable, steady McConnell.

In particular, the past few games confirmed some hunches he had about the Butler x McConnell fit.

“I think the growth of those two interests us,” said Brown, “and albeit not in a ton of time, it’s enough to sort of validate our gut feel that they could be a good pairing.”