Tyrese Maxey’s Growth Should Excite Sixers Fans
If you follow Tyrese Maxey on Instagram, you’ve seen a familiar theme on his stories.
The day after just about every game, the Sixers’ rookie posts a picture from the team’s practice facility with a caption, “you gotta love it.”
That mindset has no doubt helped Maxey in what has been a bizarre rookie campaign. The 20-year-old has shown growth already and is giving head coach Doc Rivers plenty to think about as his team embarks on the postseason.
“There’s nobody that works more,” Rivers said of Maxey after practice Monday. “If you saw the minutes as far as what he has on the practice floor, he’s so far ahead of everyone else it’s unbelievable. He puts a lot of time in with my son Spencer [Rivers] and some with Sam [Cassell] as well.
“It’s just amazing. Even yesterday when we had a ‘black day’ – which means no one comes in – I know that he worked out because he’s working out with my son. … That’s just who he is. He works at it. He wants to be good and he’s showing that.”
While he’s averaged 14.8 minutes a game, that doesn't properly illustrate the sporadic nature of his playing time. That can’t be an easy adjustment for a guy that played heavy minutes as a freshman at a powerhouse school like Kentucky.
But to Maxey’s credit, he’s been up for the challenge. After he appeared to hit the proverbial rookie wall -- and seemed firmly outside of the Sixers’ rotation -- Maxey was not only ready for his next opportunity but has shown signs of growth.
Over his last eight games, Maxey’s shooting splits have been elite – 50.8/40/82.4. That 40 percent from three is of particular importance. Maxey shot below 30 percent from beyond the arc in college and is currently below that number in his first NBA season. A guard hitting over 50 percent of his shots from the field is also notable.
Rivers doesn’t like to assign any of his guards as a true point guard. Maxey definitely fits more into the combo guard category. With that said, his playmaking has also seen an uptick during this stretch. Maxey is averaging 2.9 assists to just one turnover.
As a rookie, he’s done an outstanding job taking care of the basketball all season long. As Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia noted, Maxey has a 7.7 turnover percentage outside of garbage time, which ranks in the 90th percentile of NBA combo guards, per Cleaning the Glass. The pace with which Maxey plays makes that number all the more impressive.
And he’s doing all this for a team trying to win a championship.
“The thing I love about him is any time he gets his opportunity he takes advantage of it,” Tobias Harris said. “What he’s able to do as a player on the floor, getting to the rim – I think that’s one of his greatest assets as a player right now and that’s hard to teach in a lot of young players.
“I think the knock on him coming out was his shooting, but he has perfect form, perfect release, he gets in reps. Those are just things that he’ll continue to get better at, but I think he’s going to be a good shooter and I think he’s a great shooter right now.”
You won’t see Maxey’s name come up in the conversation for Rookie of the Year – but that’s through no fault of his own. Maxey just happened to slip to 21st overall to a team that’s become a legitimate contender. There’s no doubt he’d have a larger role and stuff the stat sheet on a non-playoff team.
But there’s been no sulking. Maxey has embraced the task and filled a role when called upon. He’s provided speed and tempo the team has missed when Ben Simmons has been out. He’s given the bench unit a spark when the offense has looked stagnant.
He’s helped a team on the verge of clinching the one seed win basketball games.
“My biggest thing I tell him is just be patient with this process,” Harris said, “because he’s a guy that could be on one of these bottom teams playing X amount of minutes and averaging 17, 18, 20 points a game.
“But right now, he’s on a winning team and a team that’s fighting for a championship, so there’s more growth in that area in my opinion. Just allowing him to see the endgame but be in the moment is the biggest thing.”
So, can Maxey carve out a role in the Sixers’ rotation? Maybe. Crazier things have happened. We saw fellow Kentucky alumnus Tyler Herro take the playoffs by storm as a 20-year-old rookie for the Heat last season.
Why not Maxey?
It’s more likely that Maxey won’t establish himself as part of the playoff rotation, but Rivers could go to his rookie guard if the team needs a spark.
What’s more exciting to think about is Maxey’s long-term future.
“I think he’s going to be one of the top guards in this league for years to come,” George Hill said. “I’m always on him telling him to continue to stay ready, continue to do what he’s doing because I love everything about him. …
“I’m so excited for all the success he’s had so far, and I know there’s way more in that bag that he’s got.”
Maybe Maxey plays in the playoffs. Maybe he doesn’t.
Either way, we know he’s going to work and that the future is bright for one of the biggest steals of 2020 NBA Draft.