Philadelphia 76ers: The Great Tyrese Maxey Civil War soldiers on

(Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) /

If the Philadelphia 76ers had to make trades via a consensus vote of the fanbase, Tyrese Maxey probably would have been traded – or at least almost traded – about a half dozen times.

He was “almost” moved for Kyle Lowry, a player discussed in various Ben Simmons trades, with some suggesting he could be the key piece to landing a premier-level player like Bradley Beal, and suddenly finds himself in “trade talks” once more; linked to Kevin Durant thanks to the Slim Reaper’s reported openness to calling the City of Brotherly Love home.

Lines have been drawn, claims have been staked, and folks suddenly find themselves in the middle of the latest battle of “The Great Tyrese Maxey Civil War;” a battle that will soldier on until Durant is ultimately traded – which, unfortunately, may take months if it ever happens – or Maxey comes back standing 6-foot-5, 213 with a 7-foot wingspan and an ability to defend one-through-four.

So what gives? Why do some fans believe Tyrese Maxey is the Philadelphia 76ers’ future, an “untouchable” player who could still be in his prime when Joel Embiid retires, while others believe Daryl Morey should use him as a trade chip to go all-in on another max-level performer in the hopes of securing a championship over the next few years? Why is “Mad Maxey” so gosh darn polarizing?

Will Tyrese Maxey ever get the love he deserves from Philadelphia 76ers fans?

Alright, just for the sake of argument, let’s discuss Tyrese Maxey’s flaws; maybe they’re legitimate concerns, maybe they’re ticky-tacky, but hey, for the sake of argument, let’s go for it.

First and foremost, Maxey is a bad defender; not just a meh defender, or even an average defender, mind you; a bad defender. His defensive box plus-minus was the fifth-worst mark on the team among regular contributors behind just Isaiah Joe, DeAndre Jordan, Furkan Korkmaz, and Georges Niang, and his Defensive Rating of 109.7 ranks 294th out of a possible 605 players, which, again, isn’t great.

Factor in his Defensive Raptor rating of -1.5, which is tied for the 228th best mark in the NBA among players who logged at least 1,000 minutes – among 279 players – alongside James Harden, Damion Jones, and Trey Lyles, according to FiveThirtyEight, and it’s hard not to look at Maxey as the sort of player who other teams would target Tyler Herro-style on defense.

Furthermore, Maxey isn’t an elite passer and struggled somewhat to run the offense as more than just a sparkplug scorer last season. Sure, he didn’t turn the ball over very often, which is very important/good, but his assist percentage of 19.1 is half that of James Harden and is even lower than Joel Embiid’s 23.6. Considering Maxey led the Sixers in both possession and passes made, it’s not particularly encouraging to see the second-year pro record 346 fewer assists than Harden on 409 more attempts.

Goodness, after reading all of that, I sort of want to trade Maxey too… but then I recall everything the 21-year-old Garland native brings to the table, and the pendulum swings pretty far back in the other direction.

You see, despite playing out of position for the first four-ish months of the season, Maxey was incredibly efficient with the ball in his hands, averaging just 1.2 turnovers per game on 61.1 passes and 13.3 shots per game. His 3-point shooting percentage, 42.7, ranked third association-wide last season among qualifying performers, and even if he landed a few ticks short of the 50-40-90 club in 2021-22, there’s little reason to believe he couldn’t hit that mark at some point down the line.

Maxey is also a galvanizing presence who is a bottomless well of positive energy and a crafty scorer who can get the bench going with his incredible abilities to finish around the rim. He ranked in the 99th percentile at transition scoring according to NBA University, averaged the most scoring attempts and points per game in the transition per game on the team at 2.9 and 3.9, respectively, and was somehow more efficient in that aspect of the game than Ben Simmons in 2020-21 despite being a far less effective pickpocket.

Goodness, do you remember when folks the Sixers were going to lose that aspect of the game when Simmons check out? Fortunately, that couldn’t have been further from the case.

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Will Tyrese Maxey ever be as good as Kevin Durant? Well, considering the Slim Reaper is considered one of the 12 or so best basketball players of all time, that answer is a resounding probably not. But can he be better than Kyle Lowry, Bradley Beal, or any of the other players fans were willing to move Maxey for over the last 18-ish months? The Philadelphia 76ers owe it to themselves to find out.