Ready or not, another season of 76ers basketball is right around the corner. With that being said, it is once again time for preseason player profiles at Liberty Ballers.
We’ve already previewed several players, looking forward to how they could impact the team in the 2023-24 season.
Contract status: Final year of four-year rookie deal; $4.3 million for 2023-24; RFA for 2024 ($6.3 million qualifying offer)
Since arriving to Philly in 2020, Tyrese Maxey has done nothing but smash expectations. After falling to the 21st pick, he continues the legacy of Kentucky guards outplaying their draft position.
He was able to earn meaningful minutes as a 20-year-old rookie on a contending team for a head coach who was notorious for not playing young players. He turned Ben Simmons’ trade request and holdout into an opportunity for himself by becoming the team’s lead ball handler — and experiencing a lot of success before the arrival of James Harden.
Last season, Maxey averaged 20.3 points per game. In the history of the Sixers’ franchise, only four other players have averaged over 20 points a game at 22 or younger: Charles Barkley, Jerry Stackhouse, Allen Iverson and Joel Embiid. (For the record, Iverson is the only Sixer to average over 25 points a game at 23 or younger.)
Maxey slipped in the draft largely because of concerns over his jumper. After showing signs of progress during his first season, Maxey has turned himself into one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA. He finished fifth in three-point percentage (43.4) on over six attempts per game. That shooting prowess paired with Maxey’s lightning speed make him a difficult guard.
And he’s still just 22 years old with plenty of room to grow.
Season outlook: To say this is a crucial year for Maxey is like saying Jalen Carter was a solid draft pick for the Eagles — it’s a staggering understatement.
From the Sixers’ perspective, they’re going to ask a lot of Maxey. Whether Harden holds out or reports and creates chaos, Maxey is likely to become the team’s primary ball handler as he was during Simmons’ holdout (even a potential Jrue Holiday trade would leave Maxey with plenty of on-ball reps). The team was actually playing well before the Simmons-Harden swap went down, posting a 35-23 record. A .600 winning percentage is a competitive squad in the East. Now, Maxey is a little older, wiser and has continued to gel with Embiid.
From Maxey’s perspective, it’s essentially a contract year. The team opted not to engage in extension talks with Maxey, instead hoping to use his restricted free agency to their advantage to maintain maximum cap space this coming offseason. Make no mistake — the Sixers absolutely believe Maxey is a huge part of their future. This season could go a long way to determining how much the team has to prove that financially.
It doesn’t feel dramatic to say that Maxey’s performance this season, good or bad, could change the entire trajectory of the franchise. If he vaults himself into All-Star status, he’ll likely get a max deal and the team will take as many bites at the apple as they can with the Maxey-Embiid pairing. If he struggles, the organization will have numerous tough questions to face.
One thing feels fair to say: Tyrese Maxey is not the type of player and person you bet against.