If Maxey’s Shot Improves, Teams Will Regret Not Taking Him
Tyrese Maxey knew it was coming. For all the success and promise he showed in his lone season at Kentucky, he knew people would harp on the fact that he didn’t shoot well from three.
The 20-year-old, who was selected 21st overall by the Sixers Wednesday night, shot less than 30 percent from deep for the Wildcats. He seemed acutely aware that questions from the Philly media would focus on that weakness.
Perhaps he was ready for the questions about his shooting stroke because he himself recognized a need for improvement.
“Ever since the season ended, my thing is I wanted to show people that I'm a way better shooter than what my numbers said,” Maxey said in a video press conference Thursday. “So what I've been doing is I work out at 6 a.m., go lift at 8, I'm back in the gym at 10, sometimes going back later in the day, but I wanted to be able to show everybody that I can knock down those threes and I feel like I said I'm a way better shooter than my numbers show and I think that's one thing I want to show at the next level.”
And just how many shots has he been putting up?
“My goal is at the 6 a.m. session make 750 to 800, go lift, come back, and do it all over again.”
It’s no secret the Sixers need shooting. It’s a clear focus of new president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, who traded for veteran sharpshooters Danny Green and Seth Curry and selected Isaiah Joe in the second round out of Arkansas Wednesday night.
In speaking with the media after the draft, Morey mentioned how successful Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have been when surrounded by shooters.
Maxey, who worked out with Simmons in Los Angeles before the NBA season resumed, knows his jumper needs to improve at the next level, especially if he wants to play big minutes with the Sixers’ All-Star duo.
“I've been working on it all,” Maxey said when asked where he feels comfortable shooting. “Catch and shoot, off of different actions, off the dribble -- you have to have it all day in today's game. I feel like if you can't knock down shots from everywhere on the court, a wide-open three, especially now playing with a guy like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid who cause a lot of attention, it's gonna be hard to get on the floor.”
So, with Morey’s mandate of surrounding Embiid and Simmons with shooters, why select Maxey at 21?
One reason is that Maxey’s shot isn’t broken. He shot 83.3% from the line. He showed potential in catch-and-shoot situations, but also off the dribble, which can be a dangerous weapon at the next level.
But the biggest reason Morey pulled the trigger on the pick is that the value was just too great. Maxey was projected to be a lottery pick. He can create space off the bounce, he can finish at the rim and he profiles to be a strong defender with the capability to guard ones and twos. And as far as intangibles go, Maxey seems to check all those boxes.
When it came to making the pick, there was no need for Morey to overthink.
“I was thrilled,” Morey said late Wednesday of the Maxey pick, “because I think teams tend to fixate on weaknesses, instead of sort of celebrating strengths with guys who fall. Again, this is like a top USA Basketball guy. ... And historically, guys with this pedigree coming in who play at an effective level on a top team, you're just putting yourself in a really good spot to get a player who can help over time. …
“This is a guy who constantly works on his game, has improved his game in every year, and also is a big team guy. And those things are important. If you have a top-level talent like him, plus, you love basketball and you're willing to work, continue to improve, that's where we end up having a top player.”
Much like Devin Booker, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Tyler Herro before him, Maxey could be a Kentucky guard teams regret passing over.
His shot falling at the next level could go a long way in a few GMs feeling remorse.