Philadelphia 76ers player grades: Tyrese Maxey

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Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) scores against the Atlanta Hawks during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

This Sixers season did not go exactly as planned. With Joel Embiid injured for much of the year, the Philadelphia 76ers fell from a top seed in the East to the NBA Play-In Tournament. Thankfully, Embiid has since returned to the lineup and the 76ers finished the regular season on an 8-game win streak.

The Sixers ended the regular season with a record of 47-35. While Joel Embiid is rightfully the focal point for the 76ers, ascending star Tyrese Maxey deserves more credit for exactly how incredible his 4th NBA season was.

Significant offensive strides

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey, top, goes up for the shot with Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler defending during the first half of an NBA basketball play-in tournament game Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Maxey came into this year with high expectations from the start. With James Harden being sent to the Clippers for veteran talent, Maxey was going to have to carry the point guard position for a while. Fresh off of scoring 20.3 points per game last season, many were ready for Maxey to make yet another jump in his contract year, and Maxey did not disappoint in the slightest. The former Kentucky star achieved career highs in scoring with 25.9 points per game, 6.2 assists per game, 3.2 rebounds per game, and 1.0 steals per game. He went from the 39th-highest scorer per game last season to the 11th-highest this year.

Maxey’s offense took off to another level this year. Another year of maturity in the league, combined with a year learning behind one of the greatest scorers of all time, James Harden, led to him taking the leading perimeter scorer from The Beard. During this breakout year, Tyrese Maxey set his career high in points in a game three separate times.

First, he dropped an even 50 points on the Indiana Pacers in November. Then he scored 51 points in a crucial 3-point win over the Utah Jazz on February 1st. Finally, just a few months later, in April, Maxey scored a whopping 52 points in a double-overtime victory over the San Antonio Spurs. At only 23 years old, Tyrese Maxey’s ceiling remains as undefined as it has ever been. Couple in Maxey’s improved playmaking abilities this season (assist percentage of 26.7%) and Maxey could be one of the next faces of the NBA.

Vastly improved defense

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey, right, blocks the shot attempt by Orlando Magic’s Markelle Fultz, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 12, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

On defense, Maxey has also shown significant improvement. While any defensive stat, advanced or otherwise, is unreliable at times, Maxey still had some impressive feats. When defending within 5 feet of his man, Maxey is the third-best Sixer at defending within five feet of the basket, with an allowed field goal percentage of 63.3%.

Last year Maxey was the tenth-best on the Sixers from within that range. If we move the distance from the basket to 20-24 feet, Maxey only allows a 37.7% shot percentage. For reference, defensive standout Patrick Beverly holds his man to 36.8% from that same range.

While advanced stat tracking similar to as mentioned above shows improvement, it does not always explain the whole story. In this era of advanced analytics, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by numbers, especially when defense is concerned. In this case, there is no better way to judge a defender than by the eye test. For example, many times last year, Maxey was, at times, a liability on defense. Next to James Harden, teams were able to take advantage of Maxey on the perimeter.

Maxey has had to guard on-ball this season more often, giving him a full season of trial by fire. Maxey has since emerged from the fire with improved footwork and faster hands. As stated above, Maxey registered a career-high 1.0 steals per game, but the young guard also registered career highs in both deflections per game (1.6) and loose balls recovered per game (0.9).

Final Grade

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Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) shoots against the Utah Jazz during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Tyrese Maxey has had astronomically high expectations in nearly every season of his career, and yet, he still blows them away. Many were hoping this would be Maxey’s breakout All-Star campaign. Instead, Maxey set the bar even higher, becoming a fringe All-NBA level player in just his third year as a starter.

At only 23 years old, Maxey has a bright future ahead of him with the 76ers and has earned a resounding grade of an “A+” for all that he did this season. Maxey may very well win Most Improved Player this year, but teams should be scared of the player Maxey could become in the next couple of seasons.