This Pacer would inject life into Cavs bench, would be great trade target

T.J. McConnell, Indiana Pacers. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)
T.J. McConnell, Indiana Pacers. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Cleveland Cavaliers
T.J. McConnell, Indiana Pacers. (Photo by Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports) /

McConnell could inject tons of life into the Cavs bench

Defensively, McConnell is an on-ball pest at the point-of-attack, and his tenacity there would be a terrific fit with the Cavaliers. This isn’t discounting what Raul Neto brought in his spurts last season, but McConnell is just more of a disruptor on that end of the floor, which leads to transition buckets the other way and tons of deflections. He’s posted splits of 2.0 steals per-36 minutes and a steal rate of 2.7 percent over his eight seasons.

McConnell’s hands have been magnets on defense for years, and he had a robust 2.2 deflections per contest in 2022-23, per’s hustle data. He also had 3.5 deflections per outing in the 2020-21 campaign, which was third in the Association.

McConnell could be an instant impact defender for Cleveland, if they were to acquire him via trade, but he could provide an offensive lift in bench minutes, too. His hustle play and constant energy plays could make a difference in the postseason as well.

On offense, McConnell might not have the quite the vision of Rubio, however, his rim pressure, pick-and-roll play and ability to push pace all have led to him being a very productive bench playmaker over the years. He can still make a variety of passes, and his penetration could lead to quality looks for a number of Cavs in stretches he’s out there to give Darius Garland some rest.

Over his time with Indiana, McConnell has averaged 5.5 assists in 21.9 minutes per game, to 1.7 turnovers. Now, he will turn it over to some extent but the good far outweighs the bad with McConnell having the ball for stretches, and as a scorer, he can create his own offense.

McConnell is not a deep shooting threat, which is a reasonable critique. Despite that, and him being a 6-foot-1 lead guard, he is a crafty finisher near the rim as a driver, on floaters and his mid-range play is outstanding. He can hit teardrops and in the deeper paint, can regularly cash in on fadeaways.

McConnell has converted on 48.1 percent of his shot attempts from 10-16 feet out over his eight seasons on a frequency of 22.7 percent. Whether it’s in secondary transition, on catch-and-go cuts or in pick-and-roll, McConnell is very adept at hitting shots from that range, even with his lack of three-point shooting.

Now, one might question if the Pacers would be willing to deal McConnell, then. He is a quality player for Indy, is a meaningful vet presence to have for young guys and is a high quality, two-way player. Dealing him could be worthwhile for both the Pacers and Cavs, though.