Tyrese Maxey is taking a leap.
In a thrilling overtime matchup with the Grizzlies on Monday, Maxey went toe to toe with Ja Morant, a guy on the cusp of true NBA superstardom, and came out victorious.
Maxey put up a wild, mini-Lebron-like stat line of 33-3-8-1-4 against Memphis. With Joel Embiid out of the lineup, Maxey led the charge and continues to look like he has the makings of a star-caliber player on a true championship contender.
It’s impossible to be anything but over the moon about Maxey’s development this season. His shooting efficiency from deep looked to be a swing skill for him coming out of Kentucky. Maxey displaying a willingness to take those shots was key. He’s doubled the amount of threes he’s taking in his second season compared to his rookie campaign (3.5 attempts compared to 1.7 attempts) and is shooting 40.1 percent on those threes, a huge jump from the 30.1 percent he shot a season ago.
As a 21-year-old guard, Maxey has showcased the ability to finish at the rim, hit big shots off the dribble, create for his teammates and impact the game defensively. The dude is great.
It’s funny, in a twisted sort of way that only a demented Sixers fan could laugh at, that Maxey is turning himself into the perfect guard to play alongside Ben Simmons, despite the latter’s lingering absence from the team. After the disastrous turn of events that was the Sixers-Hawks series last summer, it became clear that there needs to be more help around franchise pillar Joel Embiid if the Sixers want to seriously have a parade down Broad Street. The 2022 version of Maxey transporting himself into that series probably wins it for the Sixers. Oh well. That’s just the 45,367th Sixers-related “what-if” I’ll have to live with.
The NBA trade deadline is next Thursday. No player is garnering as much trade discussion as Simmons. The Sixers are rolling, just a game out of first place while getting All-Star caliber play out of their second-year guard alongside another MVP-level performance from Embiid. How should the Sixers front office play their hand ahead of the deadline?
Hypothetical Simmons trades have focused primarily around getting the Sixers more help at guard, whether that be a Tyrese Haliburton deal with the Kings or one with James Harden and the Nets. Maxey’s rapid development might give some Sixers fans pause on a Simmons trade, preaching patience given Maxey’s increasingly great performances, allowing this season to flow naturally without forcing a Simmons deal and perhaps even waiting for the offseason to make a move.
I’m taking a different approach.
Maxey is good right now, not just in a theoretical way, but to be a major player on a team that’s trying hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Much like last season, the NBA landscape feels way more open than it traditionally is. Another good week and the Sixers could find themselves atop the Eastern Conference standings like they were in 2021. Windows open and close faster in the NBA than any other sport. Embiid looks like the best player in the world. I’ve harped on not wasting this Embiid season, but I might need to also start adding that the Sixers also shouldn’t be wasting what they’re getting from Maxey right now.
Go get someone to pair with both of these guys to try to win the East for the first time in 21 years. Maxey was literally born during that 2001 campaign. He’s now old enough to drink. Moving Simmons, and potentially Tobias Harris, does not qualify as going “all in” when you still have a prime Embiid chugging along like he is and Maxey making a jump in just his second pro season.
Vice president of basketball operations Daryl Morey is billed as a creative front office mind. I do not doubt that at all. Rumors have, as I said, been based around the Sixers landing another high-level guard, but who’s to say the Sixers can’t revisit another John Collins-centric package with the Hawks or Morey can’t blow us all away with a trade target we didn’t even fathom?
Maximize Embiid’s prime. Capitalize on the vibes this Sixers team has. Reinforce the organization’s belief in Maxey. Do a deal. Win the whole fuckin’ thing.