The Philadelphia 76ers are playing like legit title contenders, and guard Tyrese Maxey is a huge reason why. Maxey is averaging 27 points, five rebounds, and six assists per game on 48/42/94 shooting splits. He’s currently 11th in the league in BPM.
One of the writers here at The Shadow League offered the following about Maxey before the season began:
Through his first three years in the league he’s steadily improved. He already has four 30-point playoff games in his short career. There is a huge James Harden elephant in the Philadelphia locker room to remove. If and when it does go, Maxey might explode.
He’s an elite shooter, races with and without the ball, and is effective on ball and off ball on the move. If new head coach Nick Nurse, who has a lot to prove, can connect with Maxey and Embiid this could be franchise-changing.
Maxey Has Made A Leap
Not to toot my own horn but … BEEP BEEP!
All that said, it’s possible I undersold Maxey. Yes, the Harden trade has freed him up and he’s exploded. He was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the first time in his career at the end of October.
Not only is he a leading candidate for most improved, he’s on track to be an All-Star this year, and if this continues all season he might make an All-NBA team.
A perennial MVP candidate in Joel Embiid, who is playing like one again so far this season, and an All-NBA level guard with role players that defend, shoot and make winning plays is a recipe for playoff success.
The 76ers are currently third in aNET rating, fifth in aORTG and eighth in aDRTG. That’s the profile of a championship contender.
We are a long way from the NBA playoffs, and as good as Maxey is, he’s still only 23 years old and in his forth season. His 26.3 percent usage rate is the highest he’s had so far in his career and his turnover percentage has actually gone down. A rarity for most players.
Let’s see if that continues as we get to the quarter mark of the season.
We mentioned his 30-point playoff performances. Those might be easier when you aren’t at the top of a team’s scouting report. Let’s see how he handles being the focus of the opponent’s best perimeter defender.
Former Teammate Sees Greatness In Maxey
Harden, despite no longer being teammates with Maxey, still communicates with the young guard and sees big things for him.
“He works extremely hard; good things are definitely going to come his way,” Harden told The Athletic. “He listens, he puts the work in, as a young guy in this league that’s all you can ask for. As he gets more reps at that scoring, playmaking role, he’ll figure things out, you know, in a good way, how different teams are gonna guard him. I’m extremely and overly proud of him; he gets an opportunity to showcase his game.”
Say what you want about Harden. But he knows hoops, and as an elite scoring and playmaking guard himself and former MVP, he knows what elite play at that position looks like.
Championships are not won in November, but playing well matters and potentially winning the inaugural In-Season Tournament could be a positive step for this team.
The 76ers have failed to advance to the conference finals since becoming a perennial playoff team in the 2017-18 season. They’ve had their share of bitter postseason disappointment.
Advancing out of group play and winning the single-elimination tourney will give them an early look at how they respond to pressure and how head coach Nick Nurse will make decisions in the heat of battle.
It will also give Maxey a chance to show what he can do when teams are locked in on stopping him. All the pieces matter as they build towards a title run next spring.