Lakers’ LeBron James reveals unheralded East guard as his favorite player– ‘He’s like Draymond’

Unprompted, LeBron James expressed how much he loves TJ McConnell’s impact for the Pacers.

Lakers' LeBron James with a thought bubble containing a hyped up Draymond Green, with a silhouette of Pacers' TJ McConnell beside James. Plenty of eyes emojis around McConnell

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is one of the smartest players the league has ever seen. He calls out opponents’ plays before they materialize, he’s almost always at the right position on defense, and he dissects defenses in real-time, solving every coverage that is thrown his way. Thus, it’s no surprise that James has a soft spot in his heart for players with incredible basketball IQ, one of them being Indiana Pacers backup point guard TJ McConnell.

Speaking on his Mind the Game podcast with JJ Redick, the Lakers star expressed his love for McConnell’s game, even comparing him to another genius-level basketball player in Draymond Green.

“One of my favorite players in the NBA right now is T.J. McConnell,” James said to open the latest episode of his podcast, via Tony East of Sports Illustrated. “T.J. McConnell… he’s like Draymond [Green] as a point guard.”

This is huge praise from LeBron James; not too many receive this kind of admiration from one of, if not the greatest basketball player of all time, and for TJ McConnell to receive them unprompted? McConnell entered rarefied air right there and then.

The Lakers star and Draymond Green have built a rapport following their playoff battles that spanned multiple years; if there’s anyone who knows how impactful Green can be, it’s James. For McConnell to be compared to him is incredible. Both Green and McConnell tend to make the right basketball play most of the time, they love to keep the ball moving, hunting a great shot even at the expense of a good one, and they compete on defense to the point of opponents’ annoyance.

TJ McConnell responds to the Lakers star’s praise

When LeBron James speaks, people tend to listen. That’s exactly what TJ McConnell did. It didn’t take long for the Pacers guard to hear of the Lakers star’s comments, and he recognized how big of an honor it is for him to be the subject of such adulation from a man of James’ stature.

“I saw it. Obviously very humbling,” McConnell said. “Him noticing what we’re doing here. All of it wouldn’t be possible without my teammates.”

It’s very TJ McConnell-like for him to praise his teammates even when he’s the primary subject of such commendation. The Pacers’ backup point guard is one of the most unselfish players in the league, a quintessential team player who wants nothing more than for his team to do well, regardless of his production.

But in recent weeks, McConnell’s production has matched his intangibles; as pointed out by Tony East, “McConnell is currently averaging 14.3 points per game across his last 19 outings” while shooting 57.7 percent from the field during that span. Despite being 32 years old, it seems like he’s only getting better.

“I’m just letting the game come to me and I’m finding lanes to get to the basket, get to my spots,” McConnell added.

Tyrese Haliburton gives McConnell his much-deserved flowers

There may not be a better feeling for players than to receive praise from their peers, especially one as prominent as LeBron James. Tyrese Haliburton acknowledged how big of a deal it was for TJ McConnell to receive such praise, with the Pacers star expressing how deserving he thinks McConnell is of this kind of love.

“That’s pretty cool. It’s hard not to love T.J.’s game, especially the last couple of months, what he’s been doing. He’s been amazing,” Haliburton added. “He’s one of, if not the, best backup point guards in the league. I’m very thankful to have that on my off nights, thankful to have a guy I can play alongside off the bench as well.”

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