On Feb. 1, Philadelphia 76ers point guard Tyrese Maxey recorded a new career-high by scoring 51 points against the Utah Jazz. His dominant performance came shortly after the 76ers announced that Joel Embiid suffered a torn meniscus.

With Embiid on the sideline, Nick Nurse will be relying heavily on Maxey to keep the team afloat. The early returns have been mixed, with the aforementioned 51-point performance to go along with some inefficient games where Maxey’s shot abandoned him as defenses keyed in. Still, the good news is that the young guard out of Kentucky has the talent to carry a team, and help may be on the horizon from other players not named Embiid.

Maxey has a lethal combination between his speed and his stepback jumper

Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) shoots the ball as Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija (8) looks on in the second half at Capital One Arena
© Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As a scorer, Tyrese Maxey’s two best skills complement each other to devastating effect. Tyrese Maxey’s primary methods of attacking as a scorer are a dribble drive and a stepback three.

Coming into the league out of Kentucky, Tyrese Maxey had a reputation as a driver that was bolstered by his most effective weapon: A running floater that he used to devastating effect once he got into the lane.

While Maxey came out of college with a questionable three-point shot, he has developed this skill throughout his time in the NBA and has emerged as one of the best three-point shooters in the league. He has also developed a deadly stepback that allows him to create enough space to get a shot off almost any time that he wants to.

Maxey’s driving ability and stepback three-pointer complement each other perfectly. Because he is such a threat to drive to the rim, defensive players are always ready to drop back as he begins to drive so that he doesn’t blow by them. This makes his stepback devastatingly effective because the defensive player has to honor his driving ability and his speed.

Similarly, Maxey’s stepback opens up driving lanes, where the dynamic guard can use his speed and athleticism to attack the paint. If defensive players are too focused on waiting for him to execute his patented stepback and splash a three, it becomes much easier for Maxey to drive past them. Once he gets to the rim, the young Kentucky product is one of the best finishers from the guard position in the NBA.

Adding Buddy Hield should help Maxey’s playmaking

One thing is for certain: Maxey will need to continue to improve his playmaking while relying more on his teammates to contribute. Maxey came into the league as a score-first guard with the potential to develop into something more than that.

Throughout his time in the league, Maxey has steadily improved in all aspects of his game. He has particularly improved his playmaking. Maxey used to be somebody who could make the easy passes fairly consistently but would still occasionally miss something. Now, he has developed into a high-quality playmaker who can manipulate defenses to get his teammates open and then hit them with on-the-money passes.

Buddy Hield is one of the best pure shooters in the NBA, and he is somebody who can reliably convert shot attempts when Maxey is able to get him open looks.

Hield was brought in with much more than just Maxey’s benefit in mind, as the gravity he creates with his spacing will be immensely beneficial to Joel Embiid in the playoffs. However, the way that Buddy Hield’s addition will benefit Maxey cannot be overstated. Without Embiid in the lineup and without Buddy Hield on the team, defenses were free to key in on Maxey and force him to either give up the ball or take a low-percentage shot against tight defense.

Hield is more than just a great shooter. He is an elite movement player as well who has a great understanding of the game. He knows how to find the open space on the court and present himself to the passer. He also understands how defenses will likely react to Maxey’s movements, and he knows how to play off of the young guard.

Hield has an advanced understanding of where he needs to be based on where Maxey is going. He knows where the offensive initiator will look to pass for shooters to be open and he knows where the defenders are most likely to be.

It is not a perfect comparison, but in a lot of ways, Hield’s play is reminiscent of Klay Thompson. Maxey may not be quite the shooter that Steph Curry is, but he is a better driver. This puts pressure on the defense in a different way, but it still forces defensive players into a difficult situation. Maxey’s downhill driving ability collapses defensive schemes, which often leaves shooters wide-open on the perimeter.

Maxey and Hield work well together, and the veteran’s shooting and secondary playmaking ability will reduce the pressure on the young guard’s shoulders. Maxey’s dynamic offense bag allows him to put the team on his back and take over a game when necessary.

Maxey’s driving ability and elite shooting complement each other perfectly, and his stepback and sidestep moves allow him to get a good look from three-point land any time he wants it. Maxey has the talent and mentality to carry the 76ers in Embiid’s absence.