All-Star? All-NBA? Nothing is Out of Reach for 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey

All-Star? All-NBA? Nothing is Out of Reach for 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers have found their second star player to pair with reigning MVP Joel Embiid. Tyrese Maxey, fresh off scoring a career-high 50 points against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, is producing at elite levels in all areas of his game.

Maxey’s performance over the first few weeks of the season are a large reason why the Sixers currently hold a league-best 8-1 record. The 23-year old is consistently filling up the stat sheet. Through nine games, he is averaging 28.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per contest. The uptick in production has not come at the expense of his efficiency. He is shooting 50.5% from the field and 43.1% from 3-point range while turning the ball over 1.1 times per game. If he continues at his current pace, he would be setting career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, field goal percentage and free-throw percentage.

There were some questions about Maxey’s ability to handle the full-time point guard duties once James Harden was traded. He passed them with flying colors. He has done a great job controlling the offense without turning the ball over, committing 1.1 turnovers per game. So far this season, Maxey is top-10 in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio, totaling 65 assists to just 10 turnovers. His efficiency and ball control have both improved despite the massive increase in volume and responsibility.

The two-man game between Maxey and Embiid is flourishing and proving to be nearly unstoppable. The Sixers spent years attempting to find the perfect player to complement Embiid. It seems they have finally found him. Maxey possesses a lethal combination of outside shooting ability, speed and touch around the basket. Opposing defenses have struggled to slow Maxey down, especially when the Sixers run actions centered around the two-man game with Embiid. The big fella is a handful to guard by himself, yet alone when opposing defenses have to also worry about Maxey’s driving and shooting ability.

The Sixers are effectively bludgeoning teams with the Maxey-Embiid two-man game. Playing out of the pick-and-roll, Maxey has the speed to effectively turn the corner going around the screen. Once he gets going with speed towards the rim, he can attack defenses through his arsenal of floaters or just finishing through contact. Maxey has looked to draw contact more often this season, leading to an increase in trips to the free-throw line. After taking 3.6 free throws per game last season, that number is up to 4.8 per game this season.

When opposing defenses inevitably attempt to prevent Maxey from turning the corner and getting downhill, he has the ability to counter using his lethal outside shooting. On the play below, Bruce Brown, a strong perimeter defender, was trying to prevent Maxey from getting to the basket. Maxey then made him look foolish, stopping on a dime and knocking down a step-back 3-pointer over Brown’s outstretched arm.

In scoring 50 points against the Pacers, Maxey became the first Sixers guard to achieve that feat since Allen Iverson did against the Atlanta Hawks in 2005.

The 3-pointer has been a critical piece of Maxey’s scoring arsenal. He is shooting 43.1% from beyond the arc on eight attempts per game. He can do damage with his step-back jumper, but he is also highly efficient in catch-and-shoot situations. Maxey is knocking down 61.5% of his 3-pointers off the catch. His outside shooting when combined with his speed and finishing ability gives him an elite scoring repertoire. Head coach Nick Nurse spoke after the win over the Pacers about Maxey’s versatility makes him more difficult for opposing defenses to guard.

“I thought just, again, he just mixed in what he does so well,” Nurse said, via Ky Carlin of Sixers Wire. “I thought he blasted to the basket with speed a bunch of times. I thought he did his step back or separation for 3s, just a heavy dose of both. I think it was really hard to guard tonight, but it’s really hard when he’s that fast one way and he’s so deadly a shooter the other direction. So it’s kinda like which one do you try to take away? It kinda makes it hard.”

Maxey’s scoring ability has thus far been good enough to carry the Sixers offense whenever necessary. Lineups with Maxey on and Embiid off the floor have a plus-16.70 net rating and a 126.51 offensive rating this season. For context, that would be the best offensive rating in the league. He also has been at his best in the fourth quarter, the most crucial moments of the game. Maxey is averaging nine points per game in the fourth quarter, good for fifth highest in the league. He is producing at a high level regardless of the players and situation surrounding him.

While Maxey’s offensive production is his bread and butter, he has also made significant improvements this season on the other end of the floor. He is currently averaging career highs in both blocks (1.0) and steals (1.0) per game. After recording eight blocks all of last season, he already has tallied nine rejections in as many games so far this season. Blocks like the one below are starting to become commonplace for Maxey.

Maxey, through the opening few weeks of this season, is playing like a true superstar. He is making an impact in every area of the game, from playing efficiently as the lead guard to taking over games as a scorer to playing solid defense. His attitude and intense work ethic are also wearing off on everyone else on the roster.

“It starts with people like that. When you’ve got people in the building that are always smiling, it’s rare. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him mad,” Embiid said after the win over the Pacers, via Paul Hudrick of Liberty Ballers. “Usually, me in the mornings, I don’t mess around. Him, you can come in at 7 in the morning and he’s smiling. I’m like, ‘Dude, I just woke up.’ But that’s always the same energy — it doesn’t change. Good games, bad games always the same — that smile. When you’ve got people around like that, especially when they’re someone that high in the organization, it changes everything. It sets the tone for everyone else.”

Maxey is playing at an elite level that is actively raising the Sixers’ chances of competing for a championship. The hope heading into the season was that Maxey was going to make his first All-Star team. Through the first couple weeks, his play is rising far above simply being an All-Star. If his elite play continues, an All-NBA team nod might be in Maxey’s future. The Sixers have found their second star to pair with Embiid. Maxey is, as Embiid calls him, “The Franchise.”

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