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Tyrese Maxey continues to impress as a starter

Milwaukee Bucks v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Let me start this off with saying it feels awesome to write this headline. It wasn’t too long ago that I had some legitimate concerns about Maxey being thrust into a much larger role in year two. There were many preseason moments where you could see some growing pains and you could tell that he was still adjusting.

The preseason is just the preseason, however, and things are meant to be taken with a grain of salt. Fast forward a month later and those concerns have been put to rest somewhat. We are 12 games into the 2021-22 season and we’ve seen Maxey thrive in his newfound role. He’s been a major reason the Sixers are 8-4 despite myriad injuries and COVID-19 problems.

One of the bigger concerns heading into this season with Maxey was his three-point shooting, or lack of. Sure, he could shoot threes. It was, however, one of his bigger weaknesses in his rookie season as he only hit 30 percent on 1.7 attempts per game.

Maxey, thus far, has quieted those concerns. Through 12 games, he’ made 38.5 percent from three on nearly double the attempts of his rookie season, at 3.3 per game. Twelve games is still a pretty small sample, but he’s shown growth in this area through his willingness and confidence. There were many times last season where he would be somewhat open and would instead choose to drive or pass the ball. This season Maxey has made defenders pay who go under screens or simply disrespect his shot.

Maxey showcased this confidence against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday evening, where he shot a career-high eight threes. Again, the sample size is small, but Maxey making a league average amount of threes (around 37 percent) would be huge growth in year two.

I also have to touch on his finishing ability which has been really great. Maxey is far from the biggest player on the court, being listed at 6-foot-2. His height hasn’t hindered his finishing around the rim at all, where he’s becoming one of the best guard finishers in the entire league. Through 12 games Maxey is shooting 69.8 percent within three feet of the rim.

His trademarked floater has been on full display, and it’s showcased in his shooting within the restricted area at 66.7 percent. The three-point shooting efficiency combined with shot making around the rim has skyrocketed Maxey’s efficiency, where he’s currently shooting 49 percent from the field. There aren’t many second-year guards that are capable of shooting this efficiently, and it’s promising to see Maxey starting off the year so strong.

One of the biggest areas of untapped potential for Maxey is on the other end of the court. He’s shown flashes of being a very capable defender. We saw this in the Hawks game this season, where All-Star Trae Young shot 3 of 9 from the field while Maxey was defending him. Maxey is one of the quickest players in the entire NBA and he’s beginning to use that to his advantage on the defensive end.

The last area I’ll touch on was the one I was most concerned with heading into this season: playmaking. Tyrese Maxey has always been labeled as a “tweener” or a player that is stuck between two positions. In Maxey’s case he’s always been labeled as a shooting guard in a point guard’s body. While he’s been a capable playmaker I had concerns on if he could lead the Sixers’ offense.

This isn’t at all a slight against Maxey. Running a NBA offense in year two of your NBA career is a difficult task that many players simply can’t do. Being a point guard is arguably the hardest position to play in the NBA as you have to balance out scoring individually with setting your teammates up.

Maxey’s assist numbers have steadily risen as the young season has progressed. Through 12 games he’s now averaging 4.7 assists for the season. While it’s still a bit low for a starting point guard, it isn’t bad at all — especially if you factor in his assist to turnover ratio. This season Maxey has averaged 3.29 assists for every turnover.

He’s especially taken care of the ball as of late, as he didn’t turn over the ball once in the Sixers’ back-to-back against New York and Milwaukee — where he nearly played 80 minutes of basketball. Maxey is slowly learning how to balance scoring individually and getting the Sixers within their sets. This learning process, however, hasn’t been painful at all with how well he’s taken care of the ball.

Head Coach Doc Rivers praised Maxey’s hard work and the Sixers’ veterans, both of which he contributed to Maxey’s success this season:

“It’s probably a lot, but I’ve got to give it to him. He just works on his game, really. Obviously having Danny Green and Joel and Seth and Georges — who he’s become really close with — having all those guys is good for Tyrese. But Tyrese is good for Tyrese. He works; he listens; he watches film. He does everything you need to do to become better in basketball or in your workplace. If you do all those things in whatever you do, you’re going to get better at it.”

Tyrese Maxey was labeled as a draft steal back in 2020 when he fell to the Sixers at pick No. 21, and continues to look like an even bigger steal with time. He’s been a massive bright spot in the headache that is the Ben Simmons situation. Make sure to thank the 19 teams that passed on him in the 2020 NBA Draft. The Sixers got a good one in Maxey.