Since James Harden made his long-awaited debut for the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, they have looked like a completely different team. The former MVP's high-level scoring and playmaking have brought elements to the offense they have never had before. Despite having to adjust on the fly, the Sixers have managed to seamlessly integrate their new All-Star teammate into the lineup.
By far the biggest impact Harden has had on the Sixers is making life easier for others. Early in the season, some guys were forced to do more than their typical roles, given the absence of Ben Simmons. With Harden in the mix now, the role players can go back to their regular style of play.
Out of anyone on the roster, Tyrese Maxey has made the most of responsibilities being taken off his plate. Now that he no longer has to take on the primary playmaking duties, he can embrace his scoring guard nature. Maxey has broken the 20-point plateau in each of the past two games while doing so with great efficiency.
Following the Sixers' 125-109 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday afternoon, Doc Rivers touched on Maxey's play coming out of the All-Star break. He feels the 21-year-old is extremely comfortable sharing the backcourt with a player the caliber of Harden.
“He's back home when you think about [it]. He's actually playing the position now that he's played his whole life, so, in some ways, he's very comfortable playing the way he's playing.”
*Watch NBA games LIVE with fuboTV (click for free trial)*
Throughout his path to the NBA, Maxey was always known for his scoring ability. While he can be a playmaker, he has never been seen as a true point guard. Due to the circumstances heading into this season, he was thrown into running the offense out of necessity.
When the Harden trade became official, everyone instantly began discussing Philly's new superstar duo. While the pair of All-Stars have put the league on notice, there is one underlying storyline slowly forming. That being the Sixers have a three-headed monster on offense with Embiid, Harden, and Maxey.
Even as a rookie, Maxey showed he is going to be a good scorer in this league for years to come. Who can forget when he erupted for 39 points against the Denver Nuggets when the Sixers' roster was decimated by health and safety protocols.
With Harden setting the table now, all Maxey has to worry about is attacking defenses when opportunities arise. Given how skilled the Sixers' All-Stars are, opposing defenses' primary focus will be finding ways to slow them down. With all the attention drawn to them, it allows other members of the supporting cast to exploit mismatches. So far, Maxey is the one to make the most of this opportunity.
Whether it's catching the defense sleeping in transition or spotting up for 3-point shots, Maxey is making opponents pay for not paying enough attention to him. Harden's presence has created scoring looks that weren't there previously, and Maxey is taking full advantage of them.
Moving forward, production outside of Embiid and Harden will be essential if they want to contend for a title. If Maxey can continue to thrive playing off the two stars, it will make them even more of an impossible team to defend.