Maxey to Miss Multiple Weeks With Foot Injury. How Can Sixers Offense Adjust in His Absence?

Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers will reportedly be without guard Tyrese Maxey due to a “small fracture” in his left foot. He is expected to be out for 3-to-4 weeks and will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks.

Maxey sustained the injury on a drive to the basket in the first half of the team’s win over the Milwaukee Bucks. He was fouled on the play, and after attempting his free throws he was quickly seen limping to the locker room.

The injury to Maxey comes at a bad time for the Sixers. James Harden, the team’s primary ball handler, is out for at least the next few weeks with a right foot tendon strain. Maxey’s performance with Harden out of the lineup has been uneven, although it appeared he was finding his footing in recent games. He had scored 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting prior to the injury occurring in the first half against Milwaukee.

If Harden returns on schedule sometime in early December, that would mean the Sixers will have to navigate approximately the next eight or nine games without their two primary playmakers. Replacing Maxey’s scoring production (22.9 points per game) will be tough. However, the bigger issue will be effectively replacing the playmaking production of both Harden and Maxey.

In their absence, the Sixers will have to rely more on the defensive identity they built early on this season. In six games since Harden’s injury, they have given up just 101.2 points per game. On the season, they allow the third fewest points per game (106.2).

Replacing the playmaking lost from both Harden and Maxey is going to take a team effort. They likely will rely on a mixture of competent but not extraordinary ball handlers to fill the playmaking void. Here are a few players who can be expected to help run the Sixers offense over the next few weeks:

Joel Embiid

Starting this list with a big man might seem unusual, but the offense over the next few weeks is going to have to start and end with Embiid. He is going to have to continue to shoulder more responsibility offensively. The scoring is obviously already a given for Embiid. The team will also likely look to often run the offense through him out of the post.

In the five games he has played since Harden’s exit from the lineup, he is averaging 38.4 points, 11 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.8 blocks per game. Those numbers are even better when the sample size is shrunk to just the last three games. His numbers have been dominant, averaging 44.3 points, 10.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists and four blocks per game.

With Harden out of the lineup, Embiid has picked up some of the playmaking slack. The offense has often run out of the post, with Embiid reading the floor and finding the open guy. However, turnovers have also been an issue. Over the last five games, he is averaging five turnovers per game. He will need to play a cleaner brand of basketball, but regardless of the turnovers it is clear the offense will have to run through him while both Maxey and Harden are out.

Shake Milton

Milton is more naturally a two-guard, but he has some ball handling abilities the Sixers will look to tap into over the next few weeks. In an ideal world, the team would love to receive the type of production Milton had against the Bucks. In 31 minutes, he totaled 15 points and six assists while committing three turnovers. He has also shown some playmaking ability in prior seasons, averaging 3.1 assists in 23.2 minutes per game in the 2020-21 season.

Milton is not going to provide anything spectacular while trying to run the offense. However, he is a competent playmaker, someone who can run a few pick-and-rolls and find the open man in transition. The Sixers should not rely on Milton to be the sole ball handler. However, he can effectively be a part of the rotation the Sixers will utilize at guard in the coming weeks.

De’Anthony Melton

Melton, known as “Mr. Do Something” during his time with the Memphis Grizzlies, will surely play a big role in filling the absences of Harden and Maxey in the lineup. The 24-year-old, playing in his first season in Philadelphia, has continued to earn that nickname early on this season. He can do a bit of everything, averaging 8.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists (1.2 turnovers), 0.5 blocks and 1.5 steals per game this season.

He has already stepped up his playmaking in Harden’s absence, averaging four assists while committing 2.6 turnovers per game. While not being a natural point guard, he has already shown the ability to be able to step in and adequately produce. He has four games this season with five or more assists. The Sixers should look to rely more heavily on Melton’s playmaking abilities over the next few weeks. However, he is battling a back injury that has already caused him to miss two games this season. NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Noah Levick reported after the win over Milwaukee that Melton is hopeful to play through it but that it does not sound like he is 100%.

Furkan Korkmaz

The Sixers can also receive some playmaking ability from Korkmaz. He has shown some signs of an improved ball handling ability in prior seasons. He had eight games in the 2021-22 season with five or more assists. His ball handling is very much a work in progress. However, the Sixers might have to rely on him to run the offense for a few possessions while both Harden and Maxey are out. The team currently is without Korkmaz due to a left knee effusion. When he returns from injury, he could in theory play a small role in the rotation of ball handlers the Sixers will use over the next few weeks.