Heading into the season, Sixers fans had immense expectations for the former Wildcat, Tyrese Maxey. For starters, he flashed some tantalizing upside during a breakout game six performance on the road against the Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs last year, as a rookie.
Tyrese Maxey (16 PTS & 7 REB) delivered in Philly's Game 6 win pic.twitter.com/PKyfeqwsTr— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) June 19, 2021
But when we learned Ben Simmons wouldn’t be in the mix, we knew the Sixers would need more from Tyrese than might be fair of us to ask. The whole situation threw off the normal cadence for a young player’s development. Instead of the healthy getting to know you deal, Philly fans jolted straight for the please god let this relationship work out or I’ll never love again.
As our Joe Sabatini put it:
“I would point to Simmons’ $33 million cap hit this year as one of the key culprits behind their up-and-down year so far; few teams can afford to pay someone so much and not miss the player’s on-court performance.”
It’s one thing for a 21 year-old to be given an opportunity for a game or two. But it’s another when he’s expected to learn a newish position on the fly, while commandeering a team that is gunning for home court advantage, and masking that gaping $33M hole in the rotation.
Here’s what I’m getting at. Fans’ preseason expectations for Maxey were comically unfair, and somehow he’s exceeded them anyway. Maxey has been one of the brightest lights for Philadelphia during a season that’s been’s challenging.
In a massive road win Thursday, with head coach Doc Rivers out in protocol, assistant coach Dan Burke deployed Maxey in the right corner and he made the first place Brooklyn Nets pay for leaving him. Over and over again.
Maxey finished with 25 points, seven boards, and four dimes, going 5 of 8 from Prospect Park in a 110-102 win.
"He was being ultra aggressive which he's been their star point guard for the entire year ...He made some big shots for 'em and that was the game."— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) December 31, 2021
Tyrese Maxey's 25 pts, 7 reb, 4 asst and a clutch 5 of 8 from deep caught the attention of one James Harden. pic.twitter.com/6GLwV33thY
But Maxey hasn’t let the franchise’s preposterous history or zany current state of affairs weigh him down. He doesn’t appear to even notice us and all of our baggage or emotional issues. He does his thing.
With the final game of a brutal calendar year in the rear view, let’s bid adieu to 2021 by enjoying some of Tyrese Maxey’s development so far.
This year Maxey has been a willing scorer and vitally, a paint-finisher. That has been indispensable given all of the rotational chaos in a pandemic season especially. He’s cut down on his long twos and increased his shots between 0 and 10 feet.
That 0 to 10’ range is where we’ll focus here.
He’s averaging 16.5 ppg, 4.5 ast, 3.4 reb, 3.3 fta, connecting on 36 percent from distance. His TS% of .560 is up from .531 his rookie season as he’s worked to optimize his shooting profile a bit.
Maxey is shooting 58.3 percent at the rim (0-5 feet, per NBA.com) on his 4.9 attempts per game. He has some impressive company within that range.
I’m definitely not saying Tyrese Maxey is the next Tony Parker, Steve Nash, or Jrue Holiday. Im not! But he’s using some pretty advanced and unorthodox finishes, which those all-timers tormented (still very much tormenting, in Jrue’s case) defenses with. He reminds me of these guys on occasion. At just 6’2’’ 200 lbs, Maxey needs to get creative in order to finish and who better to emulate?
In the mash up below, notice Maxey uses acceleration to finish with a basic layup; that’s a gather, two steps, a jump off one leg, laying it up with the opposite hand.
But then the next time down, he’ll throw a defense off, by jumping off of the first step after he gathers the ball, this time jumping off the right foot, finishing with the right hand. Lots of players are terrible jumping off of their non-dominant leg. But his legs are clearly both independent alphas.
Notice the shot blocker’s rhythm is thrown off with some of these slick finishes. I included some Holiday and Spurs’ legend T.P. for contrast. Maxey has likened his own game to Holiday on numerous occasions.
The former Wildcat routinely surprises a big with that same-foot-same-handed finish. Pop that clip into slow-mo to see Tyrese loft a scoop while Portland big Jusuf Nurkić is still loading his hips for a denial he thinks he has another full beat to catch. Too late Nurk.
So then, like a pitcher with a fast-ball and change up Maxey is pretty comfortable with the permutations this combo allows. Defenders must guess if he’s going to take one step or two. Guess wrong and you might foul him or offer him an open look.
The no gather finish
Tyrese is comfortable finishing with one hand without utilizing a two-handed gather. This helps him glide through the jungle of swipes without needing a machete. A ball is often knocked away when a player tries to gather it at the hip. Here, Maxey avoids those moments of predictable danger.
It’s so incredibly common and natural for players to gather with two hands prior to a finish, that some stars gain a sixth sense for when to swipe down.
James Harden (@JHarden13) casually strips DeMar DeRozan (@DeMar_DeRozan).. pic.twitter.com/RVWYyQZlGs— Rockets Nation (@RocketsNationCP) December 1, 2018
The no gather helps Maxey avoid this fate.
As you observe the master-of-no-gather, Steve Nash, juxtaposed with Maxey’s version, keep an ear out for Kate Scott’s awesome call of “Maxey, hittin’ the nitro button!” Very fun stuff.
These you know very well. Maxey’s got nice touch on his floaters. He uses a burst to get by his man. But then he rapidly decelerates (this a famous James Harden trait) to uncork a wide array of different runners. Maxey can hit one off a two-legged jump stop. He can jump off the left foot and tear drop with the right hand. He can even jump off the right and loft one with the right. He can euro step into one like CJ McCollum (another player he’s studied) or use glass like Holiday or Nash... you get the idea.
Room for improvement
These film study jawns are never quite as trustworthy or fun when we go full on puff piece, right? So we need to find some constructive criticism here for the Dallas native.
At times, like many young nimble guards, Maxey can rely too heavily on his straight line speed. Some of you are in your fantasy football championships this weekend. You know how D.K. Metcalf is larger and faster than almost any other wide receiver but not nearly as difficult to cover as smaller and slightly slower Justin “the Eagles shoulda drafted him” Jefferson? Because D.K. runs in too many straight lines and is a bit predictable. Jefferson has every fake in the book . If you’re not mixing in change of speed and direction, even a slower player can pick a good angle to cut you off.
Below, both Julius Randle and Derrick Rose see the path Maxey is taking and thwart him. The spin back middle might have been open:
Finally, we’ll leave you on another good note. Maxey has flashed the Olajuwon style Dream Shake that Rajon Rondo once worked with him on. He’s utilized some off-foot underhanded scoops like Jrue, he’s modeled the sick Tony Parker dreidel, and some generally awesome high-level unorthodox finishes.
 That reminds me, will Joel Embiid ever hit the griddy after a big and-1? I hope so.