Like many expected, the Ben Simmons cloud continues to hang over the head of the Philadelphia 76ers this season. Despite the former number one pick not traveling with the team currently and a return date nowhere in sight, the situation continues to be a common talking point.
There is no denying the Simmons saga has gotten uglier by the day, but some good has come from it. In recent weeks, we have seen one major silver lining for the Sixers in light of Simmons' absence: The emergence of Tyrese Maxey.
With a hole in the starting lineup needing to be filled, coach Doc Rivers called on Maxey to take a much larger role in his second season. Maxey, being the competitive guy that he is, accepted the challenge and is developing at a rapid pace.
The 21-year-old still has some growing to do as a facilitator but looks more like a true point guard with each passing game. His 4.6 assists per contest are more than double his average from his rookie campaign. Maxey has not seamlessly replaced what Simmons brings to the floor, but he has certainly softened the blow of being without the three-time All-Star. All while giving the Sixers offense an element it hasn't had in years.
Coming into the NBA, Maxey was known for his ability to score in bunches. Even as a rookie, he showed a lot of promise of becoming a dynamic scoring guard in the league. While assuming point guard duties has changed his approach at times, the Sixers still want him to look to score when the opportunity arises. Rivers constantly spoke about the former Kentucky standout finding a “happy medium” between scorer and facilitator, and it appears he has found it.
Through 17 games, Maxey is averaging an impressive 18.4 points per game. His recent stretch is even more impressive as he has scored at least 22 points in five of the last six contests, including going for 30+ points in back-to-back games against the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors.
Maxey was widely regarded as the steal of the draft two years ago, and we are seeing why on full display. Seeing how much he has grown in just his second season has to have some front offices kicking themselves. It is now abundantly clear he has lottery-level potential and should not have been on the board when the Sixers selected him at no. 21.
The Sixers might be without one high-level talent, but it has allowed them to tap another. Maxey's hot start to the season has him shooting up the list of favorites for the Most Improved Player award.
From the team's perspective, the Sixers should be more than pleased with how Tyrese Maxey has stepped up to start the year. Replacing a franchise cornerstone like Simmons is no small task, but he is thriving thus far. After seeing how much Maxey has blossomed after one month of playing full-time, there is no telling how he will look at the end of the regular season.