We're only two games in the James Harden era, but the early
results have been simply magnificent for the Philadelphia 76ers.
After yearning for the chance to reunite with Harden, Sixers GM
Daryl Morey has capitalized on a golden opportunity. Joel Embiid is
playing at an MVP level, and now bringing Harden aboard arguably
makes Philadelphia the Eastern Conference favorite. The offensive
potential between Harden and Embiid offers, simply put, historic
But one player who the Sixers refused to include in the
blockbuster trade appears to be one of its biggest
Alongside Harden and Embiid, second-year combo guard Tyrese
Maxey is experiencing the easiest looks of his NBA career. Thanks
to the jaw-dropping gravity provided by putting Harden and Embiid
together, the amount of open space for Maxey to operate in is
leading to a scoring surge.
Yes, small sample size alert, but Maxey is putting up 24.5
points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists on an elite 76.1 True Shooting
percentage in the two games since Harden joined Philadelphia. After
watching Maxey take the sophomore leap before Harden’s arrival,
who’s to say this can’t continue throughout the rest of the Sixers’
Why you should believe in this run for Maxey continuing on
without a hiccup? For one thing, his usage rate has barely changed
alongside Harden. Actually, Maxey is carrying a higher usage
percentage (20.5%) in his last two games than he has all season
(19.1%). Maintaining his role within the offense, Maxey will be on
clean-up duty where he's spoon-fed consistently great looks off
perfect spacing from Harden and Embiid.
Maxey brings an energy to the guard position that Sixers fans
haven’t experienced in awhile. It’s not at Allen Iverson levels,
but Maxey can bring a crowd alive with his electric scoring style.
Whether it be slithering around Embiid in pick-and-roll or blazing
down the court in transition, Maxey’s offensive portfolio is
continuing to expand at noticeable levels.
Since returning to the lineup on Jan. 12, the 21-year-old is
averaging 17.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists while shooting
42.7% on three-pointers. So far, as a reliable third scoring option
for the Sixers alongside their superstar inside-out duo, Maxey
looks like he can play the part of an immediate 20-plus point per
game scorer the rest of the way. Move over Tobias Harris, who
continues to disappoint on a max contract, because Maxey just took
your job. He's helping form an exciting trio to build around in
Philadelphia well past the 2021-22 campaign. Harden, Embiid and
Maxey will be able to go toe-to-toe with any team in the NBA, and I
feel very confident in saying that. Again, only two games thus far,
but the Sixers are outscoring teams by 45.8 points per 100
possessions (139.2 OffRtg, 93.5 DefRtg) in the 48 minutes this trio
has shared the floor.
Harden will continue to put up monster numbers, especially
alongside Embiid, as he fights for the MVP with Nikola Jokic and
Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, his backcourt running mate is the
gem being mined at the moment. Maxey’s job is simple next to his
superstar teammates: take advantage of the easy opportunities
provided moving forward. Maxey is certainly taking full advantage
right now with 49 points on 30 shot attempts.
For Philadelphia, the team seems to have found the ideal yin and
yang backcourt complements between Harden and Maxey. Especially for
the former Kentucky Wildcat, having Harden to lean on at this point
of his career will only be a positive. We already saw Maxey steal
Harden’s patented step-back three-pointer in the Sixers’ win over
the New York Knicks on Sunday. The surface is just being scratched
for Maxey, who already helped keep the Sixers afloat with Embiid,
well before Morey pulled off his grand slam superstar deal with Ben
Simmons being shipped out.
Maxey essentially took the Simmons role in Philadelphia’s
foundation, as they try to build a sustainable winner in the
post-Process era. Embiid was the transcendent big man with scoring
abilities we haven’t seen in decades from his position; Simmons was
supposed to become the Robin to Embiid’s Batman, which was of
course shown on occasion. Now, Simmons' move to Brooklyn has
allowed the formation of the Harden/Maxey backcourt.
Morey said earlier this month it was “critical” to not include
Maxey in the trade for Harden. He sees All-Star upside with Maxey,
which right now is very much looking reasonable, if this
development chart goes up another rung in 2023.
A blazing-fast guard who can feast on drives and transition
looks, Maxey's stock is about to explode. Jump in while you have a
chance, because his chemistry alongside Harden will only improve
along the way.
Three-level scoring ability, coupled with gains on defense and
playmaking, already presented the argument for why Maxey was an
untouchable asset for the Sixers. On the court, we’re seeing the
results unfold perfectly.
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