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Sixers’ Tyrese Maxey emerging as strong candidate for Most Improved Player

Tyrese Maxey, Sixers, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons

Even though the Philadelphia 76ers find themselves on the wrong end of a losing streak right now, there is one glowing positive of their recent stretch: second-year guard Tyrese Maxey continues to flourish in his expanded role.

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers gave Maxey a big challenge heading into this year, and he has started to settle in nicely. Filling the void left by Ben Simmons is no small task, but Maxey has done a tremendous job softening the blow of being without the former No. 1 pick.

There were some growing pains at the start, but Maxey looks more comfortable at point guard with each passing game. We are watching him slowly blossom right before our eyes. Seeing how he managed to improve his game when playing sparingly last season, it is no surprise he has rapidly developed since playing more on a full-time basis.

Due to the increase in playing time, Maxey is posting career highs across the board for the Sixers. His 17.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.6 assists re more than double his averages from his rookie season. With this drastic increase in production, one has to wonder if the former first-round pick will find himself in the mix for Most Improved Player. He might not be the frontrunner, but he belongs in the conversation after these first 14 games of the 2021-22 season.

Some might try to discredit Maxey’s case by saying his statistical jump is due to a large increase in minutes. While playing more certainly is a catalyst, there have been two key areas Maxey has shown vast improvements in.

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Rivers might have given Maxey the reins at point guard, but it was more out of necessity. Coming into the league, he was labeled more of a scoring guard than a floor general. This has not stopped Maxey from adding a new dimension to his game.

There were some turnover issues early on, but Maxey is starting to look like a true point guard. Over his last five games, he has dished 25 assists and committed just four turnovers. Maxey currently sits at an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3:1, not bad for a player who is still finding his way as a facilitator.

Another blemish in Maxey’s game heading into the NBA was his outside shot. During his lone season at Kentucky, the young guard shot below 30% from beyond the arc. A low percentage mixed with mechanics that needed adjusting played a part in him sliding on draft night.

Seeing the way he shoots the ball now, you wouldn’t believe his shot was a weakness. Not only are his shooting mechanics much more fluid, but Maxey is also connecting on 3s at a high rate. After shooting 30.1% from deep as a rookie, he is now shooting an impressive 41.3% on just over three attempts per game.

Maxey established the reputation of a gym rat almost instantly, and the results of his tireless work have been on full display this season. There is still a long way to go, but the Sixers youngster certainly has a chance to be in the mix for his first accolade as a pro.