Does Tyrese Maxey have a shot at Sixth-Man of the Year?

Tyrese Maxey
CHICAGO, IL – OCTOBER 29: Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) brings the ball up court during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls on October 29, 2022 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)

As much of a whirlwind season as the Philadelphia 76ers have had, the move of Tyrese Maxey to the bench is something no one could have predicted.

Doc Rivers shocks Sixers fans

After a month-long absence while rehabbing an ankle iniury, head coach Doc Rivers began working Maxey back into the lineup coming off the bench. But what was originally seen as a slow workup to get Maxey back in the starting lineup has seemingly become at least a semi-permanent switch of the 22-year old with De’Anthony Melton, who started the season coming off the bench and has been starting since Maxey’s iniury.

The swap is less representative of each player’s talent and more a reflection of where the two player’s highly different skills fit best in the rotation. The first unit needed the strong defense Melton provides – especially alongside starting guard James Harden – while the second unit benefits from Tyrese Maxey’s lightning-quick speed and agility in getting to the rim. It’s an unusual move, but one that’s been highly effective – the Sixers have been 18-7 since Maxey’s return. Which begs the question – does Tyrese Maxey have a case for the Sixth Man of the Year award?

Tyrese Maxey is still shining despite his role change

The first thing to consider, of course, is whether or not Maxey even qualifies as a sixth man. Aside from him beginning the season as a starting point guard, Maxey’s minutes haven’t changed much since coming off the bench – he played 37.1 minutes per game in October, and 35.6 in November before his injury compared to 31.9 minutes per game in January. While it’s not uncommon for dominant first-off-the-bench players to have similar minutes to the starting 5, it’s possible that decision-makers could view him as a starter. This is potentially compounded by the notoriety Maxey gained last year when he became the team’s starting point guard in Ben Simmons’ absence, proving himself worthy of a starting caliber. 

But if you put aside the technicalities, Maxey arguably has one of the best cases for Sixth Man in the league. He’s averaging 17.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game since his return from injury, a statline far above most players coming off the bench.

Maxey’s offensive dominance is further magnified when coming off the bench, particularly in today’s NBA where strong defenders are scarce and almost always put in starting lineups. Whoever’s guarding Maxey then is likely to struggle to keep up with his speed, giving him an extra second to get to the rim – or even better, to come out of transition, plant his feet, and shoot from deep. 

Tyrese Maxey
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)

Having a powerful shooter coming off the bench is also a game-changer for the Sixers overall. The team notoriously struggles to stay ahead when Joel Embiid is not on the court, frequently blowing double-digit leads in the third quarter. While Tyrese Maxey’s far from the defender you’d want in your second unit, his prolific scoring allows the team to keep skin in the game when Embiid is subbed out. 

Who else is a contender for the Sixth-Man of the Year Award

Maxey faces some tough competition in the sixth-man race, most notably from Boston Celtics’ Malcolm Brogdon. Like Maxey, Brogdon offers excellent drives to the rim off the bench, though Brogdon’s are more based on his ability to juke defenders compared to Maxey’s pure speed. And while Brogdon’s points per game are lower at 14.7, his efficiency is the highest its been in his career- he’s currently fourth in the league in 3-point percentage.

Tyrese Maxey might not be the frontrunner for the award – his sportsbook odds currently sit at +400 – but his valiant efforts and positive attitude deserve recognition. He’s not only proven his value, but he’s embraced his new role off the bench in stride. He’s a difference-maker on a legitimate finals contender, and sixth-man definitions aside, at least deserves the consideration.

Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire