Deep Breaths, it is only preseason. However, it is difficult not to jump to thrilling conclusions when watching Philadelphia 76ers‘ guard Tyrese Maxey. The 21-year-old has taken the organization, and the entire NBA, by storm with his lightning-quick pace and relentless work ethic. The former 21st overall pick has already exceeded all early expectations and established himself as an important part of the Sixers’ future plans and current production. However, he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon and has already opened some major eyes with the strong play to kick off the 2022-23 season.
Through three preseason games, Maxey has played a total of 53 minutes of 44 seconds of game time. During this time he has produced 60 points, six assists, and three steals. His preseason per-36 points lead the entire NBA at 40.2 points per game. He also has connected on 21 of his 33 shot attempts (63.6% FG%) and shot 8 for 12 on his three-point attempts (66.6%). While these shooting splits are impossible to keep up over an entire season, the signs of growth in Maxey’s game are extremely exciting.
Growth in Three-Point Shooting
The biggest critique of Maxey coming out of college was his inconsistent shooting. The Kentucky product connected on just 29.2% of his three-point attempts in his lone year of college. The shooting concerns paired with his 6’2″ frame caused many teams to pass on him and allowed him to fall to the Sixers late in the first round.
These concerns showed face in his rookie year as Maxey shot just 30.1% on three-point attempts and put up 1.7 long-range attempts per game. However, he took a massive step forward last season and increased his three-point percentage to 42.7% while attempting 4.1 per game. This elite rate crowned him the third-best three-point shooter across the entire NBA. His percentage also shot up from 39.0% before James Harden’s arrival to 48.0% when playing alongside the former MVP.
Perhaps most exciting is Maxey’s extension beyond the three-point arc. While most of his long-range damage was done with his toes just behind the line and off the catch-and-shoot last season, there appears more versatility in the range of the young guard. Through the first three games of preseason Maxey has extended his range well beyond the three-point line and has been more active in seeking out his own shot. If he can keep near the same efficiency and increase his volume of shots, Maxey has a strong chance of landing in the all-star conversation this year.
Other Signs of Growth
Another major reason for optimism is the signs of maturity as a passer from Maxey. While his frame would indicate he is a more natural fit as a point guard, he is at his best when creating his own shot. This has been a major reason why the addition of James Harden has been so impactful. With Harden taking on the bulk of the playmaking responsibility off of Maxey’s plate, the young guard was able to increase his scoring production.
This growth in understanding their roles is expected to continue to build as they play together more. While so much pressure was put on the team last season, Harden played just 21 regular season games with the Sixers. As Harden continues to get more comfortable running the offense, Maxey will further shine in his scoring role. The chances of him climbing to the number two scoring option are looking more and more likely considering where both Maxey and Harden are at this stage in each of their careers.
However, there have been signs of growth from Maxey as a passer as well. He spoke about his offseason training involving much more live-read action regarding when the pass and when to score and the results are showing. This is much more of a long-term goal for Maxey but if he can continue to become more dynamic as a passer it would raise his ceiling as a player in a major way. He also will be given a chance to showcase this and improve during the minutes that Harden is off the court.
It is still only preseason and the brakes should be pumped on the Maxey hype train to some extent. However, the young guard has done everything that has been asked of him and more thus far. This type of improvement is rarely seen in the NBA and has not been seen in the Sixers’ organization in decades. If he can continue at this rate of development the sky is the limit for Maxey’s potential and the early signs of improvement could not be more exciting.