How will Tyrese Maxey’s absence impact the Sixers ahead of crucial run of game?

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Sixers 76ers tyrese maxey
Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey, left, goes up for a shot against Charlotte Hornets’ Cody Martin during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, March 1, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Tyrese Maxey was ruled out against the Brooklyn Nets after suffering concussion-like symptoms following his collision against the Mavericks.

First and foremost, it’s very concerning that he was let back into the game after getting hit by Derrick Jones’ leg. Similar to Joel Embiid with his previous leg injuries, allowing him to play and potentially injure himself further was very irresponsible. While it’s easy to use that as a focus point, the impact of Maxey’s absence could be very severe.

Eastern Conference Standings Dilemma 

Since losing Joel Embiid to a meniscus injury, the Sixers have gone 6-8. While this record isn’t terrible, the team lost the same amount of games in 20 more played with Embiid in the lineup. Though Embiid could return this season, it isn’t clear when. Even if it’s in the regular season, it would be right before the playoffs. The main priority has to be staying as high in the standings as possible with Embiid out. 

The former MVP was playing at a historic rate before going down, but there’s no guarantee he’ll keep up that level of play if he returns from injury. Having to partake in an play-in tournament fresh off an injury is hardly a relaxed run to get reaclimatized.

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey (0) goes to the basket against Indiana Pacers’ Ben Sheppard during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Tyrese Maxey has been “the guy” for the 76ers in the big fella’s absence averaging 26.8 PPG, 5.1 APG, and 4.0 RPG since Embiid’s injury. Losing another key player will massively hurt the Sixers. While they’re currently the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, they could drop down to the eighth seed in just two games. If Maxey is out for even a few more matchups, Philly could have a tough road ahead if they are to reclaim their previous position in the standings.

What does Tyrese Maxey’s absence mean for the rest of the team? 

Any team that loses their two top scorers is already in serious trouble. The Sixers haven’t just lost their two top scorers, but two scorers averaging a combined 61.3 PPG that also includes their best defender. If there was ever a time that players needed to step up, it’s now. Fortunately, the Sixers got a few reinforcements at the deadline.

Philly wasn’t the loudest team at the deadline by any means, but they acquired the necessary pieces for a time like this. Cam Payne and Kyle Lowry have both been excellent in their short tenures with the team. Despite his poor shooting, Lowry has displayed his great playmaking abilities, while Payne has been very efficient in his scoring, averaging roughly 10 PPG in just under 20 MPG. 

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey (0) goes up for a shot against Cleveland Cavaliers’ Evan Mobley (4) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

This isn’t even getting into the Sixers’ “grand slam” at the deadline, Buddy Hield. Through his first 10 games in Philly, Hield has averaged over 15 PPG and 5 APG. This includes a rough streak over his last five games. If he puts an end to his cold streak, he’ll have the opportunity to have a huge impact in Maxey’s absence. Hield averaged over 20 PPG through his first four games as a 76er, quickly becoming the second option with Embiid out. Maxey’s out for an extended period, he’ll need to be responsible for a much larger portion of the scoring. 

This is Tobias Harris’s time to shine  

Following his 28-point performance against the Mavericks, we wrote about the solution to the Sixers’ “Tobias Harris Problem”. That solution was to just let him play. Forcing him to be the first or second option in Maxey’s absence could have several impacts on Harris. To be a pessimist, he could fold to the pressure of having to lead his team. On the contrary, Harris was incredibly clutch in both Charlotte and Dallas. 

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Utah Jazz guard Collin Sexton, right, defends against Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris (12) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

If he has to, carrying the load for the Sixers over the next few games could reinstall trust in Harris back into many Sixers fans. The narrative of benching Harris became very popular during his cold streak after the All-Star break. There’s no better time to prove those people wrong than now.

Without the No. 1 and No. 2 guys, things could get very ugly, very quickly. Guys like Harris and Kelly Oubre Jr. will need to step up, and it will be very worrisome if they don’t. How the supporting cast plays in times of desperation will have major implications on their chances in the playoffs.

AP Photo/Matt Slocum