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Tyrese Maxey is everything Sixers have been looking for

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Is Tyrese Maxey untouchable? Maybe.

Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Tyrese Maxey is everything you could want in an NBA prospect.

The 2020 first-round pick works hard, listens and is immensely talented. He’s cordial with the media and is beloved by the fans. And after a successful rookie campaign, the 20-year-old is showing through two games in the Las Vegas Summer League that he’s just scratching the surface.

He was spectacular in the second half of the Sixers’ overtime win Thursday, scoring a game-high 31 points and coming up with huge baskets down the stretch. He’s proving to be the type of guard the team has been lacking for ... forever.

As Ben Simmons trade rumors swirl, Maxey’s name will occasionally come up as Daryl Morey reportedly angles for a big fish like Damian Lillard. There was a report that Morey viewed Maxey as untouchable in discussions with the Rockets for James Harden last year.

Watching Maxey, it’s easy to believe that.

“I think we knew Maxey’s a high-level player,” Sixers assistant and head coach of the Summer League team Brian Adams said postgame. “On this stage he’s done really well in these two games. The first half [Thursday], I thought he was pressing a little. He was trying to force things and he wasn’t going as hard as he should. And he admitted to it. He turned it around and, to his credit, had a great second half. I think with Maxey, he’s proven he can do what he can do. He’s one of the hardest workers we have, so he’s continually improved and it’s awesome to see. I think it’s going to pay dividends come next season.”

Maxey didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from 3 (1 of 8), but he certainly came out firing. And the one 3 he did hit was a thing of beauty.

Not only was it a step-back 3, one of the most unguardable shots in the league, but check out the circumstances — the Sixers are down four with a little over two minutes left. Maxey’s ability to make teams pay for going under screens or switching a big onto him with a shot like that is a game changer.

The fact that he did it in such a big moment — albeit in the Summer League — and that he was 0 for 7 from deep before that shot, makes it infinitely more impressive.

“I pride myself on being able to do what the coach needs me to do,” Maxey said. “I feel comfortable with the ball in my hands. I feel comfortable making certain reads, certain passes. I worked on it my entire life, of course, but just over these last couple months — last couple weeks actually. And just finding the right reads.”

During his rookie season, Maxey consistently showed the ability to be ready with inconsistent minutes. He was firmly in the rotation to start the season. Then he seemed to hit a rookie wall and his minutes became sporadic. By the end of the season, he worked his way back and eventually wound up being a serious playoff contributor.

Not only did Maxey score 17 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter/OT, he also came up huge defensively. Maxey was tasked with guarding Sharife Cooper, who has rightfully become a Summer League darling. Like Maxey, Cooper made huge buckets down the stretch in the fourth.

In overtime, Cooper was 0 for 2 — both shots were blocked by Maxey.

“I just think it prepares us for the moment,” Maxey said. “If we’re going to talk about the regular season, you never know what the rotation is like. There’s been times late in the game, late in the half, where Coach has thrown me in with four seconds left and asked me to push the ball up the court and find a teammate or make a bucket.”

In addition to playing well, Maxey has assumed somewhat of a leadership role as one of the players with the most NBA experience on the roster.

“I think it just shows resiliency, man,” Maxey said. “We were down 14, 15, and you could tell no one was rattled. I think that’s a testimony to our coaching staff. We put in so much work in the little training camp here, and even before the training camp when we were in Philly, just me, [Rayjon Tucker], Paul [Reed] and Isaiah Joe. We kind of leaned on our leaders. No one wavered, no one broke off, no one tried to do their own thing. When the going got hard, we came together, and that’s what special people do.”

Maxey is proving to be special more and more.

Perhaps too special to trade.