With the 21st pick in the draft, the Sixers set their sights on finding a complementary bench piece to help space the floor for Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Names like Tyrell Terry, Cole Anthony, or Josh Green seemed linked to the Sixers and each guy showed potential to add value to the team. However, the Sixers waited anxiously as Tyrese Maxey slid all the way to the 21st pick and Daryl Morey brought in a guy with a much higher ceiling than they could have dreamed of for this draft slot.
Maxey was expected to be a lock to be a lottery pick, most likely landing in the 7 through 14 pick range. Frankly, he could’ve heard his name called with the 4th pick and it may have raised fewer eyebrows than the actual pick, Patrick Williams, did. Kentucky has turned out several prospects who outplayed their draft slots, such as Tyler Herro (13th), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11th), Jamal Murray (7), and Devin Booker (13th), and Maxey harnesses just as much potential as the other names on this list.
Tyrese Maxey can flat-out score the basketball. He wants the ball in big moments and flashes the ability to break a defender down on a regular basis. Maxey uses his shoulders to protect the basketball and free up his shot around the basket in a way that makes it extremely hard to contest his shot. Finishing around the rim is his best ability despite his 6’3 size- which is smaller than you would expect for his style of play. In his 1-and-done season at Kentucky, Maxey averaged 14 points despite only shooting 29.2% from beyond the three-point arc.
Maxey is also very polished on the defensive end where he often guarded players much bigger than him. In his media day zoom interview, I had a chance to ask Maxey why he looked so comfortable guarding bigger defenders despite his 6’3 frame. Maxey confidently spoke about his ability to guard positions 1-3 and claimed, “Defense is 90% mental.” The film on Tyrese backs this up as he only allowed 0.26 points per possession when in on-ball isolation. This ranked in the 97th percentile in college basketball and helped him to earn a reputation as one of the most tenacious defenders in the draft.
The biggest takeaway from the interview was that Maxey had not had any contact with the 76ers (as of 5 days before the draft). It was clear that he was not expected to be around at 21 and most people effectively crossed him off the Sixers draft board.
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