Tyrese Maxey could well be this year’s biggest Draft steal

BATON ROUGE, LA – FEBRUARY 18: Kentucky Wildcats guard Tyrese Maxey (3) shoots the ball during a game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the LSU Tigers at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on February 18, 2020. (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire)

So far this season, the Sixers’ 2020 first round draft pick, Tyrese Maxey, is proving to be the steal of the draft.

The Philadelphia 76ers accidentally stumbled upon a gem when Tyrese Maxey fell into their laps with the 21st pick in the draft. Despite playing just 120 total minutes of professional basketball so far in his NBA career, there are few players I have been as confident about that they will have a successful NBA career as the rookie out of Kentucky. Maxey clocked the most minutes on the court of his young career in Monday’s recent matchup against the Hornets with 21 minutes and produced 11 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists as a result of this.

Adversity in NBA Transition

Given the pandemic that has uprooted the entire world, Maxey (and the rest of the rookie class) has faced the most unique transition into the NBA has ever had. Tyrese had his one season at Kentucky cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, there was no summer league this year, leaving Maxey without an opportunity to get valuable reps at the next level prior to some real pro action.

To make matters even worse, Tyrese tested positive for COVID going into training camp. While his symptoms were minor (loss of smell and taste were the only symptoms he mentioned in his media availability) he was forced to isolate and miss the start of training camp. He watched the practices on Zoom in isolation, and it wasn’t until December 8th that Maxey was able to begin non-contact practices. Exactly one week later, Tyrese got his first look at NBA action and played in the opening scrimmage against the Celtics. Despite having under a week of real practices, Maxey played 12 minutes, scoring 8 points along with 3 assists and a pair of rebounds.

Maxey’s Transition to PG role

What may be even more impressive from Maxey is the positional transition that he has undergone so quickly. In his time at Kentucky, Maxey was the third option as a ball-handler and forced to play off-ball, except for in brief stretches. However, in the NBA, he has been getting reps running point guard responsibilities. This increases his long-term versatility in lineups with the Sixers, and Doc Rivers has put a focus on making him the backup point guard for the second unit. Even when sharing the court with Shake Milton, Maxey has spent the bulk of the time running the point and this has proven to be the right call.

While the clip above is an isolated example, it shows just how advanced Maxey’s vision is. Outside of Ben Simmons, Maxey is probably the only player on the Sixers’ roster that can make this pass. In his first 7 games of play, Maxey has posted a 15.9% assist percentage. What is even more impressive is how smart he has been with the ball. Maxey is averaging the second lowest number of turnovers per game (0.6) on the team among those who play on a consistent basis (average of 10 minutes a game).

Tyrese has shown a great understanding in the pick and roll as a passer in the early games- far beyond what anyone could have expected at this point. While his passing has been impressive, it is his scoring ability that attracted the Sixers and NBA scouts to his potential. There had been much talk about his improved shooting as Maxey only shot 29% from beyond the arc in college, but doubts were beginning to creep in as he missed on his first 6 NBA attempts (as well as going 0-2 in preseason). In the first game against the Hornets, Tyrese was able to squash this narrative and connected from deep for the first time.

In the following game of the back-to-back series against the Hornets, Maxey knocked down two more 3-pointers. He has also flashed an advanced array of finishes around the rim and floaters from in the paint. The quickness Maxey possesses with the ball and overall pace to his game is his best asset, and if he shoots jumpers at a respectable rate it makes this burst even more dangerous.

Tyrese Maxey is Taking Advantage of His Opportunities

Tyrese has seen an increase in minutes due to the Furkan Korkmaz injury and he is beginning to run with this opportunity. While Shake Milton and Dwight Howard will likely continue to be the first names off the bench, Maxey has a chance to secure a role in the rotation even when lineups begin to get squeezed. At just 20 years old, Tyrese has shown a willingness to work and mental toughness far beyond his years. Maxey puts up hundreds of shots outside of practice every day and continues to work with, respected NBA trainer, Chris Johnson.

It is still very early in the season but Tyrese Maxey has outplayed his early expectations. If he can continue to earn legitimate bench minutes and secure time when the rotation gets cut as the playoffs approach, this should be looked at as a successful season. However, there will be a day where his role will be much larger for the Sixers. Maxey should be looked at as a future building block of the franchise and will establish himself as a legitimate NBA starter within the next few years. As one of the most likable personalities on the team and with the talent to back it up, the Tyrese Maxey show will take center stage sooner than some may think.

Mandatory Photo Credit: John Korduner/Icon Sportswire