One of the best, tragic, mind-boggling, and maddening things about history is that it often repeats itself. Take the Philadelphia 76ers for example: despite two different coaches, a litany of lottery talent, and regularly retooling the lineup, the team has failed to get out of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in two decades.
Okay, so that’s the bad part of history repeating itself. But what about when the repeat has the chance to be a net positive? Like when the Sixers were reportedly interested in bringing Kevin Durant to the City of Brotherly Love over the summer. Surely that couldn’t possibly repeat itself, right? Not after the Brooklyn Nets and Durant totally, 100% buried the
nuclear bomb hatchet by agreeing to “move forward together.”
According to Heavy Sports insider Sean Deveney, the Sixers will almost certainly inquire about Durant at a time when the Nets are once again under a mountain of internal and external scrutiny.
“There is no doubt the Sixers have asked on Durant, they did in the summer, and will keep asking about him,” an Eastern Conference executive told Deveney. “But the Nets are going to be a little put off by them already because of the Ben Simmons thing because they feel like they were set up to give away James Harden all along. So the Sixers burned them once, do the Nets want to go back and say, OK, sure, we’ll do a KD deal, too.”
According to the executive, the only sticking point could be what the Sixers have to fork over in return for Durant. And buckle up for more déjà vu.
Will Sixers Have to Give Up Tyrese Maxey?
Back when Philadelphia’s interest in Durant was initially reported, the biggest kicker appeared to be what the Sixers would send the Nets in a potential Durant-Sixers trade. In a vacuum, sending a 21-year-old former 21st overall pick with limited defensive strengths would be a no-brainer for Durant, who will likely go down as one of the best 15-20 players in NBA history.
But this isn’t just any 21-year-old. It’s Tyrese Maxey.
The former Kentucky Wildcat has grown from a bench-unit sparkplug as a rookie to the Sixers’ third-best option on offense behind Joel Embiid and James Harden. He finished with an eFG of 55.8 percent, which landed in the 84th percentile of all combo guards. And over the summer, it was an all-out Holy War in Philadelphia over whether Maxey should be included in a Durant trade.
Not much has changed on that front, though. According to the Eastern Conference exec Deveney spoke with, Maxey’s exclusion in a deal is a non-starter.
“The main thing is, though, does Tyrese Maxey get put into the deal? Because then the Nets have to listen, they might not get a better young player than him in any deal they make for Durant. Maxey, Tobias Harris, and (Matisse) Thybulle would work, but the Nets would not get any picks in the deal because Philly can’t offer any right now. If that is all that is on the table, Brooklyn would have to pass.”
The Sixers would almost certainly pull the trigger on a deal to get off Harris’ behemoth of a contract and get ahead of a restricted free agency-headed Thybulle. But Maxey?
A Closer Look at Maxey’s 2022-23 Start
When the Sixers fizzled out of yet another playoff, there were few reasons for optimism. Philadelphia squandered whatever postseason momentum after beating the Toronto Raptors, falling to the less-talented but better-coached Miami Heat in six games. Part of the problem was Embiid’s availability — an errant elbow from Pascal Siakam landed on Embiid’s face, handing the MVP runner-up a facial fracture that limited him from the first two Miami games.
If there was any glimmer of hope, it was in the form of Tyrese Maxey. The quick-footed guard exploded onto the scene his sophomore season, scoring 17.5 points per game and cashing in on nearly 43 percent of his threes.
And to open the season, Maxey picked up right where he left off. Over his first seven games, Maxey shot 46.8/50.4/75.9. Another good sign: Maxey maintained his scoring efficiency while increasing his volume (4.1 threes per game to 6.9).
But then Harden went down with a foot strain, leading Maxey’s shooting to torpedo to the tune of 39.2/37.8/72.4. Maybe Maxey was trying too hard to fill the playmaking void left by Harden. Possibly Maxey couldn’t handle the increased pressure sent his way with Harden no longer sucking the attention of opposing defenses.
Maxey’s up-and-down play will no doubt affect how the Sixers view his long-term future in Philadelphia, especially if Durant is on the table.