The Tyrese Maxey Breakout Is Here
He is the starting point guard on the team with the No. 1 ranked offense in the league, and he leads the entire team in total field goal attempts.
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During Tyrese Maxey’s rookie year, the young point guard would occasionally leave fans with enticing glimpses into his long term potential. His 39 point outing last year against the Nuggets was one such preview, and his performance in Game 6 of the Hawks series also comes to mind.
And so far in the 2021-22 season, Maxey is showcasing his potential on a nightly basis; it has manifested quicker than many would have imagined. In 13 games so far this season, he’s averaging 17.1 points per game on 59 percent true shooting. He is the starting point guard on the team with the No. 1 ranked offense in the league, and he leads the entire team in total field goal attempts.
The season is still young, but Maxey is showing signs of a breakout, and back to back 30+ point performances against the Bucks and Raptors have everyone wondering just how good he can be. Here in this piece, I’ll be breaking down his success so far this season, and where I expect Maxey to go from here.
The biggest area of success for Maxey has been his production when attacking the rim. Per NBA.com, Maxey is 10th in the league in points per game off of drives, right behind Luka Doncic, DeMar DeRozan, and Trae Young. Of those players in the top 10, Maxey is 3rd in field goal percentage (in other words: he is both prolific and efficient). Per Cleaning the Glass, Maxey ranks in the 87th percentile for his position in field goal percentage at the rim -- which is no small feat for a player who attempts as many acrobatic finishes as he does.
Night after night, Maxey has succeeded in finding his way to the rim while relying largely on burst. His hesitation moves give him just enough space to blow by defenders, and his wide variety of finishes carries him from there.
What’s most amazing about Maxey’s success at the rim is that, while his jump shot has looked improved, he is doing all this while the defense is largely content to sag off of him on the perimeter to prevent the drives. Maxey should eventually command the respect of defenders from distance assuming his shot continues to improve, but it is encouraging nonetheless that he’s succeeding now off of pure speed and guile.
The other area where Maxey has been surprisingly good is in the turnover department. Of those top-10 players in points off of drives, Maxey averages the fewest turnovers on his drives. As a team, the Sixers’ turnover percentage goes down by an impressive 2.7 percent when he is on the floor. Simply put, young point guards aren’t supposed to be this reliable and secure with the ball.
The reason that Maxey’s turnovers are so low is threefold: 1) he’s not an especially daring passer, 2) his handle is extremely steady, 3) he is willing and able to take shots that the defense gives him.
To expand on point No. 3, Maxey’s willingness to attempt floaters or short jumpers from the 8-15 feet range is a huge reason why his turnovers are so low. Whereas many guards try to force feed difficult passes to their big men in those situations, Maxey is willing and able to get shots up, and more shot attempts naturally means fewer turnovers. As a result, Maxey is ninth in the league in pick and roll efficiency among players with at least 50 possessions under their belt, per Synergy.
Getting back to point No. 1 -- Maxey’s passing habits -- this is an area where I actually wouldn’t mind seeing some change. On the surface, it’s great that Maxey’s turnovers are so low. But while it might sound crazy, it is possible for a lead playmaker’s turnovers to be too low -- it can be a sign that they’re settling for too many mid-range shots, and/or not taking enough chances in the passing game.
The reality is that centerpieces of NBA offenses don’t average 1.5 turnovers per game. It just doesn’t happen. Even all-time great floor generals like Chris Paul average around 2.5 turnovers per game. Look at the league leaders in turnovers, and you will see many of the league’s best players. That is in large part because in order to lead an offense properly, you have to take a certain amount of risky passes. Your job as a playmaker is to find the balance there, but if a player’s turnovers are that low, it often means they aren’t taking enough chances.
I’d like to see Maxey attempt a few more skip passes for corner 3s, or perhaps a few more lob passes to big men on pick and rolls. Even though his finishing has been ultra-efficient, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to trade some of his leaning runners for a mildly risky pass from time to time.
Still, I must admit that I’m nitpicking here. Maxey’s start to the season has been remarkable, and it shouldn’t go without note that he is doing this in the context of the league’s best ranked offense. The next step for Maxey is to continue to establish his jump shot, and perhaps expand his passing game a bit, but all in all, this has been a fantastic start to the season, and Sixers fans should be thrilled with his progress. There is no reason why he can’t continue to perform at or around this level for the remainder of the season.