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Where They Affect the Game: TJ McConnell

It should be obvious that this is going to center around the rim. It’s my favorite. But what sets TJ McConnell apart from the other guys we’ve discussed (Anderson and Wright), is that we”ll wind up talking about the guys around him. After all, he’s got an NBA front court to dish to.

And dish he does. McConnell is fourth in the conference in assist rate and third in assists per game. Further, and I apologize for being unable to contextualize, he’s collecting these dimes just 27.6% of the time in transition. That’s the lowest number (aside from Justin Cobbs) amongst Pac-12 point guards that I glanced at. This is a significant number because no matter how often you want to get in transition, the majority of your offense is going to come in a half court setting. As the offense’s facilitator and someone collecting as many assists as he does, McConnell’s ability to facilitate offense for his friends is impressive. It’s a tribute to his understanding and execution of the team’s principles and the talented pieces around him.

When crunching all of the rim success numbers, it was McConnell that lead the conference (amongst the players I studied) in success at the rim:

Player % poss resulting in rim score % poss resulting in play at rim Success % at Rim
TJ McConnell 44.25 49.84 88.79
Nick Johnson 28.04 32.18 87.13
Delon Wright 50.65 61.23 82.71
Kyle Anderson 33.57 41.64 80.63
CJ Wilcox 21.80 27.25 80.00
Pe’Shon Howard 38.34 48.54 78.99
Nigel Williams-Goss 26.17 35.09 74.59
Askia Booker 29.00 38.95 74.45
Justin Cobbs 29.93 40.62 73.68
Brett Comer (2013) 51.18 72.47 70.63
Roberto Nelson 26.96 40.43 66.67
Chasson Randle 20.96 33.14 63.25
Jahii Carson 24.86 40.06 62.05

Nearly 90% of McConnell’s possessions at the rim are successful. He was making the third most assists at the rim per game (2.72) despite having the fewest possessions (8.59) per game. Aside from the ridiculous Delon Wright, McConnell accounted for the highest percentage of rim scores. I love that. Kaleb Tarczewski, Aaron Gordon, and every other Wildcat loves that. Arizona, in fact, is second in the nation in FG% at the rim (74.1%). They don’t take the most shots there (31.6% of the offense is good for 300th in the nation) but when they do, they’re making it:

See what I mean? The word facilitate means to “make something easier” and so it appears TJ McConnell makes scoring easier for his sometimes scoring inept team.

Now look at Arizona’s last two offensive explosions. In those two games, McConnell has assisted 16 times and turned the ball over just once. The above tells us that his team easily scored when he passed them the ball. The turnovers suggest the other team isn’t getting an opportunity to easily score, forcing teams into a half court setting against the Wildcats in which they have the second best non-transition defensive eFG%. Good luck. In a moment of inspiration and wanting-to-copy-cat-a-great-mind, I saw Luke Winn’s power rankings in which he notes Fred VanVleet’s protection services. He notes VanVleet’s propensity to not turn the ball over and a few wildly impressive 5 game stretches (most notably a 30:1 A:T ratio in late December to early Jan). Wichita State’s facilitator protects the ball and dishes to his playmakers and they haven’t lost. Which – for a Pac-12 blogger – begs the question: Do TJ McConnell and other Pac-12 points offer similar protective services?Assisters

This is a pretty interesting graph in that everyone seems to have taken a pretty significant dip as they began to face off against one another in conference play. Look at the downward trend beginning right around games 10-13.

And then there’s McConnell. The lead man at Point Guard U with a violent uptick as we head into the game’s most critical month. Is it a sign of things to come? As that’s a rolling five game average, it would suggest so.

In the meantime: