Doc Rivers recently revealed that he might be rotating the Sixers starting lineups moving forwards. And while many of us speculated that he’d be toggling out one of P.J. Tucker, De’Anthony Melton, and Tyrese Maxey, while leaving in Joel Embiid, James Harden, and Tobias Harris, for the last three games, it’s been the Sixers soon to be very wealthy guard out of South Garland, Texas who’s been their sixth man.
Do we call him Manu Maxey or Tyrese Ginobili?— Bryan Toporek (@btoporek) January 20, 2023
So far Maxey’s maturity has been the key to their starting lineup experiment, as our Bryan Toporek wrote. They’ve won three in a row away from The Center with the new look.
Shake Milton has already dealt with coming off the bench at times in his career, then later earning starter minutes, then moving back into a more permanent reserve role.
Sixers fans were especially excited to see Sniper Shake replace Al Horford in the starting unit back in 2020. But their Bubble Dreams were burst when Ben Simmons dislocated his kneecap. Ahhh the good ole days.
Is Shake Milton the "bad guy" the #Sixers need to win away from Philadelphia and fix their sometimes clunky roster fit? https://t.co/aN13KDzuJv#heretheycome pic.twitter.com/LAXCtaYGzN— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) June 8, 2020
In the team’s fourth consecutive win, the third where Maxey came off the bench, Maxey and Milton combined for 25 points off pine. The Sixers currently rank 25th in the league in that department, scoring 30 bench points per game. I suppose bringing Tyrese (averaging 20.7 ppg) is one way to juice that stat, if one were so inclined. But whatever your thoughts on Maxey coming off the bench are, the Sixers are now 4-0 on their current road trip, so the results are tough to argue with.
Kendrick Perkins believes Joel Embiid is the one and that Doc is pushing all the right buttons lately.
Joel Embiid and the 76ers are a LEGIT threat to the Celtics and Bucks in the Eastern Conference!!!! Btw Doc Rivers been coaching his ass off. Carry the hell on…— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) January 20, 2023
Shake Milton, who dropped 10 points on 4-7 from the floor with two dimes in just 14 minutes at Portland was asked about his relationship with Maxey. Recall, Maxey’s father Tyrone Maxey coached Shake at SMU, and would have Tyrese, in the nearby high school, come watch Milton ball out.
Tyrese Maxey notes he first met Shake Milton when Milton was at SMU and Maxey’s dad was an assistant there.— Noah Levick (@NoahLevick) March 5, 2022
He says Milton is like a big brother to him and that SMU should stand for “Shake Milton University.”
“When he got [to Philadelphia] it was pretty easy,” Milton told Liberty Ballers’s Jackson Frank after the 76ers 105-95 win over Damian Lillard’s Blazers. “We were in kind of similar situations, playing, not playing. Similar type hoopers, getting buckets, getting other guys involved too. So he’s really easy to root for. Our conversations are always really simple where he’s just like “yo attack, attack him, get to it, anytime we get into the game together. Especially with him coming off the bench recently, it’s just been we gotta put up a certain amount of points that’s what we talk about. Then get stops on the other end. Our relationship is always growing and he’s an easy guy to be around so it’s cool.”
Rivers mentioned that Maxey came to him to suggest potentially coming off the bench. Maxey is in a contract year, and you know his agent Rich Paul, CEO of Klutch Sports, the agency who represents Ben Simmons, might feel a certain way about his client getting what many consider a nominal demotion. But here we are.
Maxey, on coming off the bench. Even when he’s disappointed, he’s team first & positive. pic.twitter.com/hV84jTrTen— DFAntastic (@PhillyTradesman) January 16, 2023
But Maxey’s maturity goes beyond his years. And he doesn’t sound ecstatic about it but he does seem willing to try so long as they think it’ll help.
“I think our mindsets are similar,” Milton continued, “so we always push each other too. That’s one of the things I appreciate most about [Maxey], seeing what he does and him making me wanna work harder and I’m sure it’s the other way around. Just seeing somebody great at basketball doing their thing, it inspires you to get into the gym, work harder, be great yourself. So just bouncing ideas off one another and always encouraging each other to attack a defense is healthy.”
Their mindsets may be similar, but they are definitely different personality types. Maxey seems substantially...bubblier? “It’s just who he is, he’s the happiest human being i’ve ever been around,” Rivers gushed about No. 0 back in December. “Really, he didn’t have a bad day.”
Shake on the other hand, is...much harder to read. And not quite as... effervescent.
Joel Embiid and Shake Milton exchange words during the timeout. pic.twitter.com/DPS3qu7ERG— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) August 1, 2020
But a jawing match with the team’s franchise player back in 2020, when Shake was just a noob, didn’t deter him. Milton drained an ice cold game winner the very next contest vs. the Spurs:
SHAKE MILTON CON EL GAME WINNER— The NBA Monster (@TheNBAMonster) August 4, 2020
Philly escapa de milagro con una victoria vs Spurs pic.twitter.com/mqSSyPkp6z
So you know he has some of that ferocious-little-pitbull-in-his-chest-X-ray meme thing going for himself.
This season Milton is averaging 23.2 minutes per game. Impressively, he is averaging 15.8 points, to go with 5.1 dimes, draining 38.5 percent of his 3.4 deep balls, and heading to the stripe 2.6 times, all per 36 minutes. His .596 TS% is his best since 2020, although he was able to log 24 starts that pandemic halted season. He’s only logged 4, 6, and 9 starts in the three subsequent seasons. But he’s thriving in a bench role now. Between Harden and the Three M-igos (forgive me) Maxey, Milton, and Melton, the Sixers have quite the guard rotation.
Shake talks about playing off the bench, and making the most of it. And what his recent experience has been like sharing his bench run with the electric Maxey; a pairing Doc Rivers has recently said he likes especially.
reporting from SoCal this is Shake Milton from 76ers tv. pic.twitter.com/fwWTdmcR73— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 18, 2023
“You never really know what the game is gonna bring, just game flow wise,” the SMU product said. “How it’s gonna look, what your opportunities are gonna look like. But just being aggressive first half, [Maxey] definitely had it going and when you see something like that, you see him get one, you see him get two, next thing you know when you got the ball and you coming off a pick-and-roll you’re looking for him cause you know he’s gonna get downhill or he’s gonna get to his spot and hit the jump shot. So just being able to play well of one another and do anything to help the team,” Milton said.
You can see some of what Shake is referring to here:
Tyrese Maxey’s first-half PNRs.— 99th percentile (@99thBasketball) January 20, 2023
Getting better and better at mastering the subtle things and reads.
Great synergy w/ bench and approaches PNR more aggressively than Harden.
Incredible offensively. pic.twitter.com/PXStgNFm3Z
I love how Maxey has added this change of speed in the half-court setting now. Watch how much respect he commands when he threatens to drive and then hits the breaks. Then when the defender relaxes, he slams on the gas again. According to Rich Hofmann of The Athletic, Maxey may have begun learning some of that stuff a long time ago, from a familiar face: “Tyrese recalled how Tyrone [his father] would tell him to pay attention to Milton during SMU games, specifically his pace when running the pick-and-roll,” Hofmann reports.
Tyrese is able to cover so much ground and looks increasingly comfortable scoring in cramped half-court settings. Maybe practicing with Harden as well as watching Shake (whose one of the more proficient lob passers on the team) dating all the way back to high school is paying off.
If you wanted to teach a player whose most comfortable with their foot on the gas at all times to slow down a little, it’s a luxury then to have a Doc Rivers, Sam Cassell, James Harden and Shake Milton around to learn from, isn’t it?
But what’s the big difference coming off the bench?
“It’s different,” Milton admitted. “We were actually talking about it probably a week or so ago. Just in a game when you’re starting you’re able to get a feel for the ball right away. You’re able to get a rhythm right away and when you come off the bench you kind of have to create that yourself.”
One definitely notices that when Harden and Embiid leave the game, Maxey instinctively knows it’s his time to shine, and clearly dials up his own scoring aggression. As Tony Parker used to say, (extreme French accent) “Pop always keeps telling me, attack mode.”
“Yeah its something we definitely talk about,” Milton said. “It’s not the easiest thing to do but when you come into the game the most important thing to do is not wait, y’know what I mean? Just enjoy it.”
Just as Shake was finishing up that sentence, Tyrese walked by the scrum and bellowed out mischievously, pretending to mimic what Shake was saying “Yeah I get buckets! Yeah I go left, step-backs, you know!”
It was a fun moment. Maxey, the beaming, infectious personality, pretending that it was in fact Shake who was shamelessly bragging to reporters, when in fact, Shake was very humbly singing Tyrese’s praises, just with about 10 times less volume than ‘Rese.
Very wholesome vibes around here. In that moment, you wouldn’t have sensed that Maxey was disappointed in Doc’s decision to start De’Anthony Melton over him. There’s not a lot of players with Tyrese’s makeup. And that’s good, because the Sixers need everything he does both on and off the floor in the worst way if they want to win a title. Wherever he finds his minutes, they’ll want more of what he’s bringing. And he and Shake clearly have something special going too.