Tyrese Maxey Continues to Prove He’s Ready for the Moment

Tyrese Maxey, 76ers
CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 06: Philadelphia 76ers Guard Tyrese Maxey (0) dribbles the ball past Chicago Bulls Guard Malcolm Hill (14) during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls on February 6, 2022 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)

Few players have continually impressed how Tyrese Maxey has in the early stages of his career. After falling to the Philadelphia 76ers at the 21st overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, Tyrese Maxey has continually raised the bar on his level play. He has proven that he sticks to his motto of getting one percent better every day. While he has captured the hearts of Sixers fans for his fun-loving personality and radiant smile, Maxey has already shown why he has the skill to back it up and is ready to be an essential part of the Sixers championship-caliber offense.

Tyrese Maxey’s Career Start

It is worth noting what a unique transition to the NBA that Tyrese Maxey has had. The Covid pandemic forced Maxey’s sole collegiate season to be cut short and left him without the experience of the NCAA tournament. While this was obviously very unfortunate, I also believe it is a major reason why Maxey was still available at the 21st pick as he could have (and should have) been a draft riser had there been a larger sample size of his play.

The Kentucky product also had the start of his Sixers career delayed as he tested positive for Coivd when arriving at training camp for the first time last season. Despite Doc Rivers’ determination not to play young players and the late start that he got, Maxey’s impressive play and refreshing burst of speed made an immediate impact on the Sixers roster. During his rookie season, Tyrese Maxey played in 61 games and got the chance to start in 8 of these. He averaged 15.3 minutes per game and produced 8 points, 2 assists, and 1.7 rebounds.

Heading into year two, the trajectory continued to be somewhat strange as Ben Simmons elected to hold out from the Sixers in search of a trade. This obviously worked out for the Sixers as they added James Harden just prior to the deadline, but it also left 58 games where the Sixers were forced to play without Simmons or his eventual upgrade.

With Maxey being the closest thing to a point guard that the Sixers had on the roster, there was a large amount of responsibility immediately thrown on his plate. The 21-year-old took this in stride as he became the full-time starter and saw his minutes per game increase from 15.3 minutes in year one to 35.6 minutes per game in his second season. The production and efficiency increased with the opportunity, and Tyrese Maxey has averaged an impressive 17.6 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game. Maxey showed great progression as a point guard, but it should be noted that this is not the role that he naturally excels in.

The James Harden Era

Things changed in a great way for the Sixers franchise when Daryl Morey pulled the trigger on a deal to bring James Harden to the Sixers. This move changed the identity of the team, added a legitimate point guard to help the offense connect, and flipped this Sixers team into the category of legitimate title contenders. While some might have been concerned that the addition of Harden could prevent Maxey’s growth, the exact opposite seems to be the case.

The first thing that should be noted is the addition of Harden provides Maxey with the freedom to play his natural game. Due to his 6’2 height, Maxey is often looked at as a point guard but creating shots for others is not the most impressive area of his game. Even during his time at Kentucky, Maxey was the third ball-handler on the team as Immanuel Quickley, and Ashton Hagans typically ran the offense.

The best skill that Tyrese Maxey has on a basketball court is his ability to score the basketball. He has exceptional pace to create his shot, an artful handle to create separation, an exceptional ability to finish around the rim, and a jump shot that he continually works on. With James Harden and Joel Embiid set to dominate touches on the ball, the ability of Maxey to be effective as a catch-and-shooter is also incredibly important.

There has been a major statistical leap from last season to this year when looking at Tyrese Maxey’s jump shot. Last year Maxey shot 30.1% from beyond the three-point arc on 1.7 attempts per game. So far this season, Maxey has seen these numbers leap as he is shooting 40% on 3.6 three-point attempts per game. In the first game alongside James Harden, Maxey shot 2-3 on his three-point attempts and followed this up with a 3-5 shooting performance in the matchup with the Knicks.

While Maxey has always been an essential part of the Sixers’ transition play, there seems to be an extra pep in his step with James Harden in the fold. There were multiple moments over the past two games where Harden advanced the ball with a pass in a way that has been absent from the Sixers’ offense. With Maxey able to use his pace to get out early and James Harden being able to deliver the proper pass, it provides the Sixers offense with an exciting new dimension.

Does Maxey Give the Sixers a Big 3?

It is the top-tier talent that typically makes the difference in a playoff series, and this was addressed by the Sixers by adding James Harden as the most talented co-star that Joel Embiid has ever had. However, the supporting cast will also play a major role, and Tyrese Maxey is likely the largest factor in this.

In his first two games alongside the Embiid and Harden duo, Tyrese Maxey has tallied 28 points and 21 points. He has become freed up to create for himself, and the role of being a primary distributor has been taken off his plate. With such heavy responsibility thrown on his plate and Maxey handling it in stride, allowing him some freedom should produce welcomed results.

When looking at the long-term effects of pairing James Harden and Tyrese Maxey, things are even more exciting. Maxey has become a sponge in the way he soaks up information and ways to improve, and allowing him to learn from a top-75 all-time player like James Harden is sure to produce impressive results.

While the focus of the Sixers should be set on winning right now, Tyrese Maxey appears destined to take the keys of the organization in life after Embiid and Harden, and when this time comes, he will be ready. However, at the moment, he is more than capable of serving as the third option in the Sixers offense and will help this team reach new heights this year.