The floater isn’t a shot that a lot of NBA players have in their repertoire. Yet, it’s a shot that can neutralize rim protectors and allow for smaller guards to avoid contact with bigger, stronger players.

It’s a shot that Tyrese Maxey seems to have perfected. He first started incorporating it into his game late in his high school career, recognizing its effectiveness for him as a 6-foot-3 guard. We saw him master it during his lone season at Kentucky. It was on full display Tuesday night.

The Sixers’ first-round pick showed off an impressive bag of tricks in the team’s 108-99 win over the Celtics in the first of two preseason games.

“I am pretty athletic,” Maxey said postgame. “I can go in and jump over defenders sometimes, but to preserve your body, that midrange is a key, lost art in the NBA, especially as a guard coming off the ball screen. Bigs are in a drop for the most part so as long as you can pull up – midrange, floater, runner – as long as you have that package, you’re going to get those shots.”

In his first NBA action at the Wells Fargo Center, Maxey impressed with eight points (4 of 6) and three assists while playing the entire fourth quarter. The 21st overall pick showed off the potential Daryl Morey and company saw when he slipped to that slot.

You could argue that Maxey is already the Sixers’ most dynamic ball handler. Granted it was in mop-up duty in a preseason game, but Maxey looked smooth and operated the pick-and-roll in an advanced manner for a 20-year-old playing in an NBA setting.

While Maxey is explosive, his ability to change speeds and play at his own pace stood out.

“He dominated once he got the jitters and the excitement out of the way,” Ben Simmons said postgame. “He slowed the game down and got to what he’s been working on. I’ve seen him for numerous hours doing that – those floaters and working on his game. ...

“He’s going to be great, offensively -- and defensively once he learns the concepts and things like that – but offensively, he’s got it.”

Maxey himself said he’s learning – in part thanks to Simmons -- that he has the ability to control the pace, even at this level.

What made Maxey’s debut even more impressive is that he’s only gotten two true practices in as a pro. He tested positive for COVID-19 and was sidelined for nine days. While Maxey’s symptoms were mild enough that he could still lift weights in quarantine, he wasn’t able to run.

But Maxey, who smiles constantly and has an extremely sunny disposition, didn’t want to use that as an excuse and is looking ahead.

“Of course it was tough,” Maxey said, “just because I worked extremely hard to stay in shape [from] March all the way to November to get ready for training camp. And then to have that setback it kind of hurt, but it’s a minor setback for a major comeback.”

That resiliency and just-happy-to-be-here attitude likely went a long way with the Sixers. The history of the school he went to was also a likely factor.

There’s just something about Kentucky guards outplaying their draft slots. Devin Booker, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tyler Herro – all players that slipped a little in the draft that have had early career success.

Could Maxey be the next of John Calipari’s guards to shine at the next level?

“He’s good,” Doc Rivers said postgame of his rookie guard. “He’s a good player. He’s going to push for minutes because he’s a good basketball player. He knows how to play -- can’t speed him up, he’s got a plethora of shots, makes simple plays.

“I’m throwing this out to Cal, like I’ve said before, Kentucky guys come in the NBA prepared. This kid knows how to defend, he talks on defense. He’s been coached, for sure.”

That “plethora of shots” and NBA preparedness could earn Maxey a key role on a contending team.

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