When people think about Tyrese Maxey, the first attribute that comes to mind is probably speed. The 23-year-old guard is one of the fastest players in the league, either with the ball in his hands or while racing down the open court.
On the other hand, strength and physicality are probably not top of mind when describing Maxey. He is listed at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, large for a civilian, but not so much for an NBA player. However, it’s definitely an area Tyrese is working to develop, and we saw it on both ends of the court on Tuesday night in Philadelphia’s 110-97 win over Chicago.
Offensively, Maxey being used as a screener can help the offense in a number of ways. Either his teammate can get switched onto a smaller defender, or it can free Tyrese up when defenses scramble to communicate the screen. Maxey was asked postgame about his screening:
“First of all, I lift a lot of weight, so I feel stronger. So when I screen ‘em, boom — I get a hit on ‘em. But seriously, I think it’s good because sometimes they don’t want to get off my body. And if I screen, they’ve got to help on screens. Nick Nurse has a lot of different plays to get me in actions off handoffs, off down screens, pin-downs and different stuff like that. When you screen, it’s hard because the defense has to help. I try to make contact with the defender and get switches, get separation for Tobias sometimes so he can post up. It’s been good.”
In a follow-up, Maxey was asked how his shooting causes problems for defenses when he screens, similar to Steph Curry:
“I agree. I’m not going to say I’m Steph Curry, but I feel like I can shoot the ball well. When I get into those actions, like you said, the defense doesn’t want to get off my body sometimes because they don’t want me to get open threes. Being able to screen and actually set a good screen to get guys open, that’s the first thing. Tobias is able to benefit off those sometimes, Marcus Morris … even big fella sometimes can benefit off that. And then, if they do leave my body, I can pop back and shoot threes.”
Developing his off-ball usefulness as a screener is certainly beneficial, but being smaller in stature tends to be more of an issue for players on the defensive end. Maxey has definitely made significant strides on that end of the court, though, as head coach Nick Nurse mentioned when asked about the Bulls “targeting” Maxey:
“I think, first of all, Tyrese’s defense is really improving. I’m not going to do anything about it right now other than let him go guard those people. I think that’s the biggest thing; he’s got to get more reps and experience. But he’s starting to get into the ball. … I don’t know if you saw it, but the first couple possessions he bumped, bumped, bumped and hit [Alex] Caruso — and fouled him. And then he told the ref, ‘That’s what they do to me.’ … He just came in there with that mindset of, ‘I get bumped around like this all game long. And if that’s the way it’s going to be, I’m going to do it back.’ So I think the physicality, he’s getting there with it. I’ve asked him to get into the ball, use his speed, use his quickness. He’s stronger than you think he is, right? He can navigate people off of guards, and we’re just continuing to work on that.”
Maxey was later asked about that early foul on Alex Caruso which Nurse mentioned:
“I just wanted it to be known that we were going to be physical tonight. A lot of teams are extremely physical to me, I just wanted to push back a little bit. So, that was great.”
Tyrese added more in response to a question on his defense as a whole this season:
“Honestly, just knowing game plan stuff. I’ve been in the league for four years now, so I know a lot more concepts, a lot more about what we’re trying to do, where we’re trying to get guys, how I can help, how I can use my size and my speed and be impactful. So I think that’s the main thing I’ve been trying to do. And honestly, at the point of attack, just being aggressive whenever I’m out there, whoever I’m guarding. Going over screens, being physical and doing different things like that.”
A huge part of the Sixers’ success, Maxey has already made tremendous leaps in his game this season. We know with his exemplary work ethic, Tyrese will continue to look for different areas where he can improve even further, and getting stronger and playing more physically looks to be one of those areas.