Even during the dark times of the Philadelphia 76ers offseason, one of the more interesting storylines heading into the season was the continued evolution of Tyrese Maxey. With James Harden first presumably heading elsewhere and then finally sent elsewhere, Maxey’s ability to assume more playmaking duties, and maintain scoring efficiency with increased volume, were major talking points in Sixers circles.
With the Sixers now 6-1 and sitting atop the Eastern Conference following Wednesday night’s 106-103 victory over the Boston Celtics, it’s safe to say the early returns look promising. Maxey’s volume is up across the board; he is averaging career-highs in field goal attempts (19.0), three-point attempts (7.7), free throw attempts (4.4), and assists (7.0). However, amazingly, he hasn’t sacrificed efficiency one bit. His turnovers per game (1.1) are actually slightly down from the prior two seasons, and his true shooting percentage is the best of his young career (.607).
Tyrese Maxey through 7 games: 49 assists, 8 turnovers.— Sam DiGiovanni (@BySamDiGiovanni) November 9, 2023
It’s one of just 68 instances where an NBA player has had at least 40 ASTs and less than 10 TOs through the first 7 games of a season.
Plus, Maxey has the most points of that group (178 total, 25.4 per game) pic.twitter.com/EWPbZxR30C
Yet, coaches and teammates want even more aggressiveness from Maxey. How high can he continue to scale his volume before the efficiency actually drops off? Maybe the limit does not exist! MVP teammate Joel Embiid certainly wants to see more shots from Tyrese, as he said Wednesday night speaking to Maxey’s performance:
“Just being aggressive. I like that he took 27 shots. He should’ve probably taken more. I got pissed at him a few times for passing up wide-open shots, especially because he’s such a great shooter. Any time he’s open, he has to take them. It doesn’t matter if he takes 30, 40 shots — he has to do it. He needs to stay aggressive. But as far as just getting everybody set and being aggressive, I thought he did a pretty good job. Like I said, he took the shots he’s been making and he just happened to miss a few today. He’s not going to miss them again.”
Like the rest of us, Joel believes Maxey has a enormously high ceiling, touched upon in discussing his expectations of Maxey this season:
“I don’t know. Just be himself, be aggressive, take the shots when they’re there. Evolve as a point guard, which he’s done a great job of. I think just being aggressive. And I always say this: If he’s being aggressive, then everything else is going to take care of itself. Obviously I want him to have the opportunity to be an All-Star, All-NBA this year. But then again, that’s not what he should focus on. I think as long as you focus on winning, all the awards — whether it’s MVP, Defensive Player of the Year — all those awards, they’re just going to come. Like I said, I’m happy with where we’re at defensively and offensively.”
In years past, the Sixers often fell apart when Embiid hit the bench. Now, they are certainly a much deeper team, which helps, but they also have Tyrese to take control of the offense with the second unit. Head coach Nick Nurse praised Maxey for doing just that against the Celtics:
“He probably had a little bit of a similar game to … one of the other ones we just had. We didn’t start off that well, but he stayed with it and he was unbelievable in the run that kind of gave us the lead. He was in there with what we would call our second unit, even though there’s two, three starters in there with that — the unit we started the fourth with. We needed him there to take control of the shotmaking, and he did it.”
Maxey himself acknowledged he dials up the aggressiveness in those situations:
“I guess. I know that unit needs me to be as aggressive, as far as a playmaker and a scorer. But the last few games in the fourth quarter I’ve just been trying to be ultra-aggressive, especially in that unit. That’s our time to give Joel as much rest as we can, and I think we did that today. We got stops, and then I just wanted to be extremely aggressive and get to the paint, score the ball — and still kick out at times and get guys open shots. But I have confidence in my game and am capable of doing a lot of different things out there. I couldn’t make a shot, couldn’t buy a jump shot today — which is OK; it happens — but for me to be able to get to the paint, create for myself and create for others is great.”
One of the prettiest plays of the night came during that fourth quarter, with Maxey pulling off one of the more impressive versions of his patented floater.
Tyrese Maxey really got the giant-killer floater working in the fourth. This one might've been the most impressive. Doesn't even look like his left hand touches the ball. Like he picks up his dribble and goes into the floater in one motion. pic.twitter.com/pAjNlNgve2— Paul Hudrick (@PaulHudrick) November 9, 2023
Maxey was asked after the game if Nurse and the coaching staff are telling him he can take more floaters:
“Coach Nurse is just telling me to be ultra-aggressive. He gets extremely aggressive when I turn down shots, or when they go under and I don’t shoot, or he feels like I’m being passive and not getting into the paint. So for me, tonight I couldn’t make a wide-open three, couldn’t make a wide-open jump shot at all. So in that fourth quarter, my goal was to get into the paint, whether it was a layup, whether it was a floater. I trust my work, once I get into the paint and to the floater and different things like that. Shout out to him. When a coach wants you to be ultra-aggressive like that, you try to go out there and do that for him.”
Whatever the directives coming down to Maxey from on high, they’re working. Maxey is playing like not only one of the best young players in the league, but one of the best players in the league bar none. It’s scary for the rest of the NBA to consider he’s still just 23 year old and being fully given the keys to the offense for the first time. As Tyrese continues to get more aggressive, maybe we also have to get more aggressive about our expectations for him and this Sixers team.