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Tyrese Maxey as Philadelphia 76ers’ championship X-factor

Vincent Frank

There’s a reason why Philadelphia 76ers front office head Daryl Morey has pushed back against including Tyrese Maxey in any potential blockbuster trade since joining the organization.

The Brooklyn Nets initially demanded Maxey in a deal that ultimately sent James Harden to Philadelphia for a package surrounding Ben Simmons.

For some, this decision didn’t make much sense. If you’re going to add a superstar to the mix, you have to part with young talent. In the end, Morey was able to land Harden to team up with Joel Embiid while retaining Maxey.

It could end up being a boon for Philadelphia as the team closes up its regular season and prepares for a potential championship run.

The struggling Indiana Pacers found this out first-hand during Tuesday’s matchup with Philadelphia. Maxey nailed a career record seven three-pointers in the first half alone en route to helping the 76ers score 82 points heading into the intermission.

Once considered an afterthought behind Ben Simmons in Philadelphia’s rotation, those seven three-pointers represented two more than Simmons hit throughout his four-year career with the 76ers. Just let that sink in for a second.

Outside of Maxey’s stats on Tuesday (30 points, 7 assists, 8-of-11 three-point), it’s this added dimension from the perimeter that will prove to be the 76ers’ X-factor as they look to bring the first NBA title to Philadelphia since all the way back in 1982-83.

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Tyrese Maxey is a completely different player as a sophomore

tyrese maxey, philadelphia 76ers x-factor
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It must be noted that Maxey started only eight games as a rookie, playing behind the aforementioned Simmons and Seth Curry in Philadelphia’s backcourt. Now that the two are “suiting up” together in Brooklyn, he’s been given opportunity after opportunity.

It’s not that the former first-round pick from Kentucky didn’t play well as a rookie (8.0 PPG, 46% shooting in 15 MPG). Rather, it’s all about just how much he’s improved. It started with Simmons sitting out the entire season prior to his trade to Brooklyn. And it has continued now that Maxey is calling James Harden his newest star teammate.

Increasing his three-point percentage 11.6% from his rookie season is absurd. He’s also proven to be more than just that with an average of 9.7 two-point attempts per game and a solid 54% effective field goal mark as a sophomore.

One might think that Maxey would’ve had to take a step back once Philadelphia acquired a former NBA MVP in the aforementioned Harden. That has not happened. In 24 games since Philadelphia pulled off that blockbuster trade, Tyrese Maxey is averaging north of 18 points on 44% shooting. His effectiveness has gone through the roof now that there’s a major threat with him in the backcourt.

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Tyrese Maxey provides the Philadelphia 76ers with an added dimension

philadelphia 76ers tyrese maxey, james harden
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It was obvious to even the most untrained eye during last season’s playoffs that Philadelphia lacked the natural spacing needed to advance deep.

We already know about Simmons’ lack of a perimeter game and how it impacted then-head coach Brett Brown and Co. last spring. But the team as a whole didn’t have much from the perimeter outside of a one-dimensional Seth Curry and Tobias Harris in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the conference semifinals.

With both Maxey and Harden in the mix this season, this has changed dramatically. Other reinforcements Morey has brought into the mix have helped, too.

What will make this Philadelphia team so dangerous come playoff time is how it can beat you at all levels on offense.

Joel Embiid has been an absolutely dominating force and could very well earn his first NBA MVP award. The big man is averaging 32.7 points, 11.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists on 51% shooting over his past 46 games. He’s also shooting from a 37% mark from distance during that span.

With Harden and Tyrese Maxey doing their thing on the outside, it’s also opened up Harris’ mid-range game. Firmly on the trade block leading up to the February 10 deadline, the veteran has also upped his game big time recently.

  • Tobias Harris stats (past 13 games): 15.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.5 APG, 52% FG, 39% three-point

While Harris’ point-per-game numbers are down from his season averages, he’s been much more effective. Simply put, Harris can pick and choose when he shoots with three better scoring options in front of him.

The one X-factor here is a player in Tyrese Maxey who has brought his game to a completely different level. Whether it’s as the No. 2 seed or even the fourth seed back east once the playoffs come calling, that’s going to make Philadelphia an incredibly dangerous team.

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