Tyrese Maxey’s leap in year four is larger than anyone could’ve expected
Through tears and deep breaths, Tyrese Maxey set an expectation.
"I thank Philadelphia for this opportunity. I promise you, it won't be a regret," he told Malika Andrews moments after the Sixers drafted him with the 21st pick in the 2020 NBA draft.
Philadelphia underwent a makeover that night, shipping out square pegs in Al Horford and Josh Richardson that no amount of jamming would fit the Sixers' round holes. They welcomed in Danny Green and Seth Curry, pieces that fit much better but not long-term solutions.
It was their first-round pick - afforded to them by a pair of three-point shots from Mike Muscala to secure a meaningless victory for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2020 Orlando bubble - who changed the franchise's whole puzzle.
Maxey widens eyes with his quickness. He draws oohs and aahs with each impossibly deep three. He demands you find a replay of each finish at the rim, the speed and craft working in a harmony that the human brain struggles to comprehend in real time.
Maxey does all of it with a smile on his face, infringing upon the boundaries of each season's expectation.
He's lived through two separate teammates' trade requests; not accepting opportunities with the comfort of a guide rail supporting him, but flourishing under the pressure of having to sink or swim.
From eight points per game to 17.5; from 17.5 to 20.3; from 20.3 to 26.8.
This season has posed arguably the biggest challenge he's faced in the NBA.
Maxey has responded by making his biggest leap yet.
The seismic ascensions in points and assists is just the tip of the iceberg, though.
Maxey is the lead ball-handler for the first time in his career, and, as such, is experiencing unprecedented usage.
A career-high in usage and assists per game, go figure he's assisting on a higher percentage of his teammates' made shots than he ever has before.
It is his turnover rate - 6 percent, according to Cleaning The Glass (CTG) - that breaks the brain.
Not only is that a career low, but it's also the best amongst point guards in the league.
He's also fifth in the league in total minutes played, per NBA.com.
So, not only is Maxey embracing a heightened workload with league-leading efficiency, but he's also taking care of the ball like he never has before.
The newly-minted point guard isn't just becoming a better playmaker. Maxey is quietly becoming a more aggressive shooter, too.
There are certainly moments in which Maxey's decisions - or lack thereof - raise questions about whether he truly grasps how important it is that he establish his own gravity as a bucket-getter.
Yet, his 7.8 three-point attempts per game are another career-high - and he's hitting 46 percent of them, also a career-best mark.
And despite jugging playmaking responsibilities, ball security, and being an aggressive shooter, Maxey hasn't forgotten to apply pressure on the rim. Per (CTG), he is getting fouled on 11.3 percent of his shot attempts, the highest mark of his career.
Perhaps as impressive as any of it, Maxey has not used his promotion on offense as an opportunity to check out on hustle plays or defense. In fact, quite the opposite.
He's fouling less than ever before and blocking shots at the highest rate of his career. And when the shot goes up on either end, Maxey is as competitive as ever, establishing new personal bests in rebound rates on missed field goals.
Maxey is not letting fatigue from offense get the better of him on defense, nor is he conserving energy on one end so that he can burn the candle more on the other.
In a contract year, Maxey is simply playing the best two-way basketball of his young career.
Almost three years ago to the day, donning a gray and blue hat with 76ers stitched in cursive as he digested the moment for which he'd waited his whole life, Maxey didn't issue a prophecy.
Rather, he made a guarantee.
True to his word, the Sixers surely don't have a regret.