The Sixers’ season ended last Wednesday in fitting fashion. Time expired as an errant Nik Stauskas shot failed to hit the mark, sealing the necessary loss against the dysfunctional New York Knicks. The Sixers showed indomitable heart in a game that was a snapshot of the whole season. They played well enough to win – leading for a better part of the game – yet still managed to lose. The team missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year. Despite a rash of injuries to the team’s best players, they managed to nearly triple their win total from last season. Year 4 of “The Process” is in the books. Here’s a look at the grades for the 2016-2017 Sixers point guards.
The second year guard out of Arizona had his coming out party this season. McConnell was hardly an NBA player by the beginning of December, then seemingly found a way to steal the talent of a real baller, a la Space Jam. He evolved his defense from “solid due to his steals” to “legitimately good.” He finished tied for 9th in steals per game with 1.7 an outing.
His ability to hit open teammates in transition was excellent as well. He was a natural playmaker, regularly setting up scorers for easy buckets. McConnell closed the season ranking 13th in assists with 6.6 per game, ahead of star points like Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas, and Damian Lillard.
Perhaps one of the most clutch players in the Sixers organization – if not the whole league – McConnell was the sparkplug to many of the Sixers’ most exciting victories. His game-winning, buzzer beater, turnaround jumper over Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis on January 11th was one of the most exciting plays of the whole season. Joel Embiid couldn’t contain his excitement for McConnell’s winning play, and it resulted in one of the best photos of the season.
— Mobius (@MobiusTheScrub) April 13, 2017
His play not only earned him high praise from his own team, but drew the attention of other organizations around the league. At one point in the season there was even a reported offer for McConnell made by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The offer was promptly turned down.
“Of course we want to keep him, he’s been as big a part of the reason for our recent success as anybody. You can’t deny that.” – Sixers Coach Brett Brown
Fans and coaches alike have recognized McConnell as an integral part of the team moving forward as a result of his superb play this season.
Unfortunately any fans wanting to see Bayless in a Sixers uniform only got to see 71 minutes from him after he was sidelined with a wrist injury. This is mostly fine as he may be the odd man out at the point with the rise of TJ McConnell, a point guard heavy draft, and reports that Ben Simmons will likely be running the offense next season. With two years left on his contract there may be time to find a place for him in the rotation, but it seems fans might not see his 72nd minute in a Sixers uniform.
While he has similar numbers to McConnell, Rodriguez is clearly the lesser of the two based on the eye test. He’s one of the team’s better shooters but has a tendency to launch off long 2s rather than stepping back for a 3 or looking for a better shot. He also seems to hold the ball a second or two too long, allowing defenses to adjust to plays. While he does make some electric plays, his erratic movement appears uncoordinated at times, just seeming to not quite play the “right” way. He, too, may find himself in a different uniform next season for many of the same reasons as Bayless.
The Sixers are a team loaded with ball handlers at multiple positions. This gives them the ability to not have to rely on a strong stable of pure point guards. While Bayless missed the whole season and the other two nearly evenly dividing the rest of the starting reps, the group still leaves a bit to be desired. McConnell performed admirably as a starter but will lose his job to Ben Simmons next year and will likely serve as his backup off the bench next season. This group played well enough to get by, rarely being responsible for the team’s losses.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports