With the latest James Harden saga now over, the Philadelphia 76ers can finally move on from all the drama and take the first step into their future.
The departure of the 10-time NBA All-Star and offensive dynamo Harden is definitely a blow to Philadelphia’s title aspirations this year, but the silver lining is that it gives fourth-year guard Tyrese Maxey a chance to finally prove himself as a bona fide star in the NBA.
While the loss of Harden may hurt the Sixers in the immediate future, putting Maxey in a position to maximize his potential despite being only 22 years old bodes well for this franchise’s long-term outlook.
Maxey has upped his scoring average in each year of his brief NBA career and he is likely to continue this trend by the end of this ongoing campaign. Through the first four games of this new season, he is averaging 27.3 points and this exceeds his norm from last year by a whopping seven points.
What makes his strong start more special is that his efficiency–his biggest strength as an NBA player so far—has improved despite taking more attempts. Maxey’s shooting splits are currently at an otherworldly 49/50/93 (Field goals, Three-pointers, Free throws) which would all be career-highs for him.
His finest performance of this new season to date came in Philadelphia’s first win of the season–a 114-107 victory against the Toronto Raptors–where he erupted for 34 points on 12-of-20 field goal shooting, seven-of-nine three-pointers, six rebounds, seven assists, one block, and a mere one turnover.
The 6’2 guard is not shying away from the added responsibilities placed before him on this Sixers team and he is making the most of this opportunity to show that he is more than just a deadly scorer.
The statistics that Maxey has put up have been much more well-rounded this season as he is averaging 5.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists and one steal–all career-high numbers if he can maintain them. Now that Harden is no longer around, it seems like Maxey’s jump in production could be sustainable and it would not come as a surprise if he even improves on his numbers as the season progresses.
Maxey is, quite obviously, destined for stardom and the first of many NBA All-Star appearances may be in the cards for him as early as this coming February. If the Sixers can remain one of the higher seeds in the East by midseason, it would be difficult to keep Maxey off this year’s All-Star team as he is their clear cut second option behind reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid.
Amidst all of the Harden-related drama, Philadelphia has managed to win three consecutive games following an opening night defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Sixers are now 3-1 and second to only the undefeated Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings.
Ultimately, the departure of Harden may prove to be addition by subtraction for Philadelphia. Maxey comes with a much better attitude and less drama. He may actually be a better player than Harden already at this point in time too given the latter’s advanced age. The departure of the three-time scoring champion also allows De’Anthony Melton to step into their starting line-up which automatically improves their on-ball defense.
It is premature to count out the Sixers and they may still wind up as a prime title contender in the East as presently constructed. Their top four of Embiid, Maxey, Melton, and Tobias Harris should allow them to go toe-to-toe with any team during the regular season at the very least. Maxey’s development into Embiid’s sidekick and eventually into an NBA All-Star is going to be a key storyline to watch moving forward, not only for Philadelphia, but for the other 29 teams in the league as well.