Over the next few weeks, we’ll be profiling every player currently on the Sixers’ roster ahead of training camp, which begins on Sept. 27.
Contract status: Signed on his rookie contract for two more seasons, including a salary of $2.72 million for 2022-23
Tyrese Maxey is dead set on getting one percent better each day. That's the mindset he lives by, and his relentless work ethic led to major growth for him yet again in 2021-22.
After improving through his rookie season, Maxey unsurprisingly made a leap in his sophomore year. He moved into a significant starting role with ease and averaged 17.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists to only 1.2 turnovers, all while maintaining stellar efficiency with a 59.4 true shooting percentage — a massive leap from the 53.1 he recorded as a rookie, which is even more eye-popping when you consider his increased usage and shot difficulty.
Yet again, after developing all around over the last few months of his rookie year, Maxey improved all parts of his game last season. First and foremost, it's his leap as a shooter that jumped off the screen all year. After only making 30.1 percent of his three-pointers as a rookie and being far more hesitant to fire from deep, he ranked third in the NBA with a 42.7 percent stroke. Along with far more shot/space creation off the bounce, shifty step-backs, and pull-up threes (1.9 attempts per game after taking just 0.6 as a rookie) that he made at a 40.3 percent clip, Maxey’s shooting was in a completely different league than his rookie year.
He even improved his finishing significantly. Maxey increased his percentage within three feet from 59.1 as a rookie to 65.4, drove all the way to the rim more often (rather than overusing his floater) and played through contact with more confidence, and increased his free throw rate.
This all helped Maxey shine alongside James Harden in the team’s revamped offense. The young sophomore flourished in a supporting scoring role, attacking as a dynamic creator when need be while burning opponents as a shooter (he upped his attempts to 5.3 threes per game after Harden’s arrival) and lightning-quick driver off the catch. In 24 games with Harden to end the regular season, Maxey put up 18.7 points and 3.5 assists a night with absurd efficiency, shooting 52.3 overall and 48 percent from three.
Maxey’s fine form to end the regular season only continued from there, as he put together a terrific postseason run for a 21-year-old, first-time playoff starter. He brought his typical pace and three-level scoring, and especially exploded out of the gates in round one against the Raptors. Even though he had a couple of quieter, less involved games against the Heat, Maxey mostly excelled in the playoffs this year against two quality defenses. It’s hard to ask for much more than that.
Tyrese Maxey's first playoff series as a starter (round one this year against the Raptors):— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) July 29, 2022
4.8 assists (1.7 turnovers)
51.1/40.5/95 shooting splits
63.5 TS% pic.twitter.com/JQoET5Lbxl
From the increased skill he displayed, to the ease at which he shifted between lead creation and complementary scoring alongside Harden, to his playoff performance, Maxey's 2021-22 campaign couldn't have been much more impressive. Along with other smaller improvements such as some sharper passing, continued excellent ball security, his increased free throw rate, and some better defensive understanding, he continued to polish his game all around.
Now, he’s approaching 2022-23 with a ton of momentum.
Season outlook: Maxey is already a growing young star (or whatever similar label you want to give him), but he has the potential to approach genuine star status in 2022-23. If the Eastern Conference wasn't so loaded with talented guards, he might be in with a better shot of making the All-Star team next season. He's that good already. And with another offseason under his belt that will have been filled with countless long days in the gym, and the benefit of having more experience working with Harden, Maxey is likely primed to be even better next season.
So, what other improvements could ideally come next for him?
As straightforward as it sounds, simply more of the same would be great for Maxey and the Sixers. It would be understandable (and probably inevitable) if he can’t quite sustain his red-hot three-point percentage from last season, but if he can keep firing threes at the volume he did after Harden’s arrived, continue his improved driving, and keep performing as the complementary scorer he did to end the season, he’ll thrive yet again.
Similar play is what this Sixers team needs from him. It’s hard to imagine he won’t deliver — and then some.
From there, further development in other areas of Maxey’s game could make a notable difference. Such as continuing to make some more complex passing reads, adding even more tricks to his bag to create space for pull-ups from deep and from mid-range, and polishing his defense (for example, he's already flashed some improved screen navigation, so furthering such skills and benefiting from adding some muscle this summer would help). As for the defensive side of things (where Maxey has solid strength, lateral quickness and energy but still lacks size), the Sixers are in even better shape around him. With the addition of De’Anthony Melton and more size on the wing with P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr., there are more plus defenders to switch and take on tougher, bigger assignments to ease Maxey's load there.
Maxey has everything on his side — his track record of fast development up until now, his work ethic, and a strong team structure for him to succeed — to keep on rising. The more he does, the more pressure he’ll take off Harden and Joel Embiid to lead the offense, and the faster he’ll be considered a legitimate star.