Tyrese Maxey’s Ascension Offers Potential Solution to Sixers’ Rotation, Bench Issues

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

Tyrese Maxey, a candidate for the Most Improved Player award this season, is getting set to wrap up an insanely successful sophomore season. He took on a larger role for the Philadelphia 76ers, first stepping into the starting point guard spot and then adjusting to more of an off-ball role after the trade that sent James Harden to Philadelphia. He has developed at an impressive rate, adding multiple layers to his game and ascending into the Sixers' third scoring option behind Harden and Joel Embiid.

The 21-year old guard from Kentucky has made drastic improvements in all aspects of his play on the court. The jump he took as a scorer stands out the most. He increased his points per game from 8.0 as a rookie to 17.4 this season. He has become an incredibly valuable player in the Sixers' offense.

He took on a vastly increased role this season, increasing his minutes per game from 15.3 to 35.6 while improving his efficiency despite taking a much higher volume of shots. He plays with a ton of confidence and has adjusted to everything the Sixers have thrown at him this season.

Perhaps his biggest area of improvement came in his outside shooting. He went from being somewhat hesitant and unreliable on shots beyond the arc, connecting on 30.1 percent of his threes as a rookie, to having it be his biggest offensive skill this season. He put in a ton of work on his outside shot this past offseason and it is all paying off in a big way.

He is currently second in the NBA in three-point percentage this season, knocking down his threes at a 43.5 percent clip. He can make them off the catch-and-shoot (45.1 percent) and pull-up situations (41.9 percent). He also added in the step-back three to his arsenal.

He has really picked up his game and shooting efficiency playing alongside Harden. In 22 games since Harden's debut after the All-Star break, Maxey is averaging 18.5 points and 3.5 assists per game. Over that stretch of games he is shooting 52.1 percent from the field and a ridiculous 50.4 percent from beyond the arc on 5.3 attempts per game.

Maxey has proven capable of stepping up and carrying the Sixers' offense at times this season. The biggest example of what Maxey can do came when he scored 28 points to lead the Sixers, who were without Embiid and Harden, to a win over the first-place Miami Heat back on March 21. As a result, many more doors and possibilities are open for head coach Doc Rivers to potentially take advantage of.

Everyone is seeing how Harden is struggling as a scorer since debuting with the Sixers. It appears he has lost a step, no longer having the explosive burst he once had which allowed him to be a matchup nightmare in one-on-one situations. However, he still possesses elite passing and court vision allowing him to do a great job spreading the ball around.

Harden also has developed a good chemistry with Embiid. Their pick-and-roll combination is lethal and its something the Sixers need to use much more often, especially late in games when things slow down. Diving deeper into the numbers, the duo of Embiid and Harden dominates when on the floor together. Lineups with both of them on the floor together score 122.3 points per 100 possessions while giving up just 106.1 points per 100 possessions. They have shown they can hang with the best teams in the league despite Harden not really clicking into gear as a scorer.

However, problems arise whenever the Sixers do not have their star duo on the floor together. The bench minutes have been a problem for the Sixers all season, and nothing has really changed since the Harden addition to the roster. The Sixers lose the minutes in lineups with Embiid and no Harden by 5.7 points per 100 possessions. The team gets demolished in lineups with Harden and no Embiid, losing by 11.3 points per 100 possessions. Harden has not consistently shown the ability in a Sixers' uniform to dominate games and carry an all-bench lineup. The Sixers need to maximize their star duo by not staggering their minutes and having them play together for most, if not all, of their minutes each game.

One potential solution afforded to the Sixers from Maxey's quick development this season is to have Maxey lead the all-bench lineups. In the weeks right after Harden's debut with the team, we saw Rivers stagger Maxey and Tobias Harris' minutes alongside the bench. The two biggest weaknesses in the Sixers' bench lineups tend to be a lack of ball handling and scoring. A Maxey, Harris-led bench lineup would be a good potential fix while also opening things up for Harris to get into a rhythm offensively. That lineup pairing had mixed results when the team first went to it, but overall it would be much better than the alternative Harden-led bench lineups Rivers has used the past couple weeks.

The Sixers should not go as far as to have Maxey come off the bench as ESPN's Tim Legler suggested earlier this month in an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic. The team has struggled to find the right combination of players to help improve the bench lineups. Having Maxey's minutes staggered alongside Harris in a way where they would play a lot with the bench is perhaps the best solution this team has to fix a problem which has been plaguing them all season long.

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