Sixers: Tyrese Maxey is a steal, plain & simple

While the headline may have been buried in a wave of aggressive moves by the Sixers, they used their 21st overall pick to select Tyrese Maxey, a freshman shooting guard from Kentucky.

Maxey is widely being lauded as a “steal” at this point in the draft. He was projected late-lottery to the high-teens at the very latest—the idea of him falling to 21 was an afterthought, so much so that he was oft-discussed as a prospect to trade up for.

Maxey’s an appealing two-way scoring guard whose defining trait is his ability to get to and finish around the rim. A comfortable pull-up game and a developing catch-and-shoot jumper could make him a 20+ PPG scorer. Defensively he’s a strong defender both on-ball and off; he’s long, quick, instinctive, and has good technique for his age. There’s a whole lot to like here, and he truly had no business being in this range of the draft.

Check out the latest episode of “The Pulse of the City” podcast (starts @ 25:45 mark) for analysis of Tyrese Maxey (& the Horford trade):

Here’s what I had to say on Maxey pre-Draft:

“The skinny: Bucket-getter whose average athleticism limits his upside, but is a reliable jumper away from a complete offensive package. Classic two-guard with a little combo appeal. Excellent on-ball defender, engaged off-ball—defense keeps his floor high, 20+ PPG potential provides a nice ceiling.

Strengths: Can score from all over the floor, and is a high-level finisher around the rim. Is comfortable shooting off the dribble or off the catch, though needs to become more consistent in this regard. Has some pick-and-roll appeal. Defense is impressive for his age—will defend 1-3 at a strong level; engaged off-ball.

Weaknesses: Without elite playmaking or shooting he’s somewhat less ideal for a guard in today’s NBA. Pair that with somewhat average athletic traits and it’s not a surprise he’s valued the way he is.

Fit with the Sixers: This team needs a bucket-getter and someone who can help out a little in the pick-and-roll, and Maxey has that skillset. While I’m not sure Maxey will have the immediate offensive impact we’d hope in year one (though he could) I believe he’s ready to play strong defense from the jump.”

Let’s break this down one trait at a time.

Elite scoring/slashing ability

Maxey projects as an above-average to high-level scorer and has the traits to be an elite slasher. When you put the ball in his hands you’re asking him to get a bucket—not so much to create for others. He’s not a playmaker, and that’s fine considering he’ll be paired with one of the best facilitators in the league. Other teams couldn’t afford to overlook this concern as much.

His handle is very developed (though it will need to be honed in a little), and he’s nuanced in the way he breaks down defenders. His lack of elite burst/twitch may limit his ability to win off-the-dribble as much as we hope, but great body control, balance, and touch allows him to finish around the rim/in the lane at an elite rate—a skill that will absolutely translate to the NBA.

A comfortable pull-up game

Paired with an ability to get to the rim is a comfortable pull-up game. I describe it as “comfortable” because while the percentages weren’t there in college, the tape (he’s very fluid shooting off the bounce) and his track record (Team USA/AAU circuit) are far better clues into his potential. Make no mistake about it, he’s comfortable pulling-up from anywhere, and it’s only a matter of time before they start falling more consistently.

Off-ball shooting

At the very least he’ll develop into a stationary catch-and-shoot threat, with the tools to grow into a more dynamic movement shooter running off-screens. This isn’t a guarantee, and this is the trait that his offensive package more or less swings on. His lack of creation for others (at least for now) is already limiting offensively, he’ll need to become a strong off-ball shooter to properly complement his slashing/pull-up game (otherwise he’ll just be another iso-bucket).

Defensive floor/potential

Maxey has solid size for a guard, he plays tough, has fluid hips, quick feet, and the instincts to swivel and stick in front of his man. This combined with his length allows him to be disruptive on-ball and at the POA. He’s also effective off-ball, where his ability to navigate screens, read action, and rotate properly will allow him to see minutes right away. He’s active in passing lanes, and is an all-around strong team defender. The offensive package is fun, but it’s Maxey’s defense that keeps his floor in the NBA so high.

On our most recent podcast episode I described Maxey as a “bucket-and-D” player as opposed to 3-and-D player. His ability to get his own bucket is far more valuable than a vanilla floor spacer, and Maxey proving his consistency as a stationary catch-and-shoot threat will make him a 3-and-D player with shot-creation ability—again, I just don’t know how this sort of package falls to 21, and I’m not alone on that.

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