Philadelphia 76ers’ guard Tyrese Maxey is entering his fourth year in the NBA and has been thrust into the spotlight of a team who is contending for a championship. All the moves the 76ers have made since he was drafted have been “win now” moves to get his team over the hump.
In his first year, Maxey wasn’t asked to do much but contributed where he could, helping the 76ers win a playoff game. Coming into his second season, he was pushed into a starting role due to the trade request of Ben Simmons. Maxey had to learn on the fly; however, once Harden arrived he gained the confidence of his counterpart.
The 76ers guard took another leap during his third season by becoming one of the best three-point shooters in the league and emerging as the third scoring option on one of the best teams in the league. While Maxey took his lumps on defense and dealt with being pulled from the starting lineup, he ultimately solidified himself as one of the rising stars in the NBA.
With the pressure of remaining a championship contender, what can we expect from Maxey in year four?
Facilitating for others on the 76ers
With James Harden’s future on the 76ers up in the air, more pressure will be on Mad Maxey to flourish as the lead ball-handler. To really be effective, Maxey will have to improve on the playmaking part of his game. Nick Nurse talked about Tyrese Maxey during his introductory press conference and what he would like to see from his rising star:
“Be more of a creator. What is creating? Well, you’re scoring or you’re drawing more people than one and creating for others. So, can he make the reads? That’s the first place I would start offensively, is give more reps in the pick and roll so he can make the reads to all the other players on the floor depending on what he sees.”
During the later part of the season, Maxey did show some flashes of being a facilitator on offense, whipping passes to the opposite corner to the likes of Georges Niang and Tobias Harris for open threes. With Nurse seemingly planning to put the ball in Maxey’s hands full-time, he will definitely have to be able to make the right reads and try to increase his assist average to over six assists per game.
Making strides on defense
Maxey isn’t known as much of a defender during his short tenure in the league. He’s a smaller guard and teams, especially in the playoffs, tend to try to switch their wings onto him while he is on the floor. He can combat this strategy by learning to use his quickness and size as an advantage. Maxey took some leaps defensively late in the season, chasing players around the court on screens, guarding the ball 94 feet, and getting into some passing lanes. You can expect all of that to get better with Nick Nurse at the helm.
Nurse will probably emphasize him as a guard that can press full court, while shoring up his defense against bigger players that try to isolate him. He may also use him as a free safety on defense to gamble in passing lanes and free up a steal for a fast break down the court.
We should also expect Maxey to improve on the defensive end of the floor with Patrick Beverley on the roster. The pesky veteran will be able to teach Maxey all the tricks of the trade and instill the confidence the youngster needs to wreak havoc against opposing offenses.
Can he make a splash on offense?
Another step we expect Maxey to take going into his fourth season is an improvement in his offensive game. How can he get better you might ask? Well, he can improve his in-between and isolation game. Maxey is already a dynamic offensive player who uses his speed to get to the rim. He is also one of the best and most efficient long-range shooters in the league. If Maxey can improve on a midrange game and have a few moves that allow him to get off a shot in isolation situations, it would go a long way for this team.
As it stands, if the Sixers are always relying on Joel Embiid in tightly contested games, teams will continue to send double teams to counteract his ability to make plays. If Maxey can continue to develop as an offensive threat, the 76ers will be able to lean on him to perform when Embiid is doubled-up. This should greatly help the young guard’s development long term and allow someone else besides Joel to contribute in the clutch.
Simply put: Is expecting Maxey to make another major leap fair? No, but this young star has shown he can clearly do so every offseason. Maxey puts in the work and wants to become a better player year after year. He truly has an all-star ceiling and if James Harden isn’t on the roster, he will have the opportunity to show it. There is good chance we will see something truly special out of this future all-star this upcoming season.
(Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)