The Sixers have been red-hot in recent games, winning 15 of their last 18, which is the best record in the NBA during this time. Joel Embiid has returned to his MVP form averaging 34 points and 10.8 rebounds during the month of January while shooting 54.2% from the field. The Sixers are a much different team without Embiid, as they were just 3-12 in these matchups prior to last night’s game.
Many may have been disappointed to hear that Joel Embiid was given the night off ahead of the Grizzlies game after his 21 consecutive games played. Especially considering the last game Embiid missed was also against Memphis, which resulted in a 35 point blowout loss. Facing the 3rd place Grizzlies and with the team in need of someone to step up, Tyrese Maxey answered the call.
Tyrese Maxey Shines
So far on the season, Tyrese Maxey is averaging 16.8 points, 4.7 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in his 35.7 minutes per game. He also is shooting an impressive 40.1% from beyond the three-point arc and has done a terrific job taking care of the basketball. The consistent basis he has produced has been impressive, and it is especially exciting when he flashes the top-level potential that he possesses.
The victory over the Grizzlies was one of these nights as he went toe-to-toe with NBA All-Star Starter Ja Morant in the overtime thriller. Maxey ended with a team-high 33 points, 8 assists, 3 rebounds, 4 blocks, and shot 13-23 from the field. Along with impressive performances from Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris, who added 31 points, it was enough for the Sixers to punch their 4th victory without Joel Embiid this season.
How High is Maxey’s Ceiling?
The answer to this question may greatly impact the future of the Sixers franchise. The 21-year-old has smashed all expectations since the Sixers drafted him and is improving at one of the fastest rates of any player in recent history. While the Ben Simmons drama may hamper this Sixers roster in some ways, it has provided the unique opportunity for Maxey to get extended minutes with the starters on a consistent basis, and this is a challenge that the Kentucky product has run with.
Being looked at as the primary guard in an NBA contending team is a task that few players are capable of handling. Maxey uses his lighting quick pace to create space and attack the rim and his advanced array of finishing moves to provide effective offense. The pace of his first step is a massive asset to unlocking the rest of his game as it causes defenders to be mindful of getting blown by. The threat of this allows him to create his jumper, and he has improved on his field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, and effective field-goal percentage from his rookie season.
The growth defensively has been especially notable. This is the main reason that Doc Rivers pointed to for not giving Tyrese Maxey more minutes last season, and the 6’2 guard has made an effort to improve in his sophomore season. The 4 blocks that Maxey notched in the Grizzlies is a career-high, and it appears as if the defensive expertise from Matisse Thybulle is rubbing off on Maxey. The former 21st overall pick has always possessed the tools to be a solid defender with his relentless energy, lightweight, quick foot-speed, and active hands, but to see him putting these tools together is especially exciting.
Does Maxey’s Play Change Sixers Plans?
The days where Tyrese Maxey should be looked at as a potential trade piece to help Joel Embiid should be long-gone. You can’t ask for him to do much more to prove himself as a long-term building block of the Sixers organization, and this commitment should be shown from the organization. Outside of a select few players who likely have no chance of being available ahead of the trade deadline, the Sixers should not give any consideration to seeing Maxey in an opposing uniform anytime in the near future.
There is still plenty of room for growth when talking about the on-court relationship alongside Joel Embiid, but it is tough to be disappointed when talking about his early career. When recently asked about the off-court relationship between the two, Joel Embiid put it, “That’s my guy, you know, we’re always hanging out. We talk about everything, and we always enjoy each other, and that goes for the whole team, really.” Tyrese Maxey is ready for the moment, and expect him to continue to elevate his game as the backcourt leader the Sixers need. Forget Tyrese Maxey being up next; his time to shine is right now.