Without Ben Simmons in the mix during training camp, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers had no choice but to have an open tryout for the team's starting point guard position. Two games into the NBA preseason, Rivers confirmed that second-year guard Tyrese Maxey and fourth-year guard Shake Milton were battling it out.
After a two-game sample size, Rivers hinted that Milton had a slight upper hand in the battle. However, an ankle injury derailed Milton's preseason run. After missing the final two games and being on pace to miss the opener, Doc Rivers had no choice but to roll with Maxey as the starter.
Maxey's been solid, for the most part. In five games, he's averaged a little over 30 minutes on the floor. He put up 14 points per game, 3.6 assists, and 4.4 rebounds during that time while shooting 46-percent from the field and 29-percent from three.
Since it's only been five games, Maxey hasn't had a ton of time to convince Doc Rivers he's the long-term solution at the point guard position if the Ben Simmons saga drags out later on into the year. While Rivers likes what he's seen out of Maxey in terms of growth and development, he still seems to prefer the second-year guard coming off the bench and playing alongside backups.
"I like him with that unit more," Rivers said on Thursday night. "At least, right now, you know? We're asking him to do so much for a guy that's never really played the position. When he's with that unit, it gives him some more pace. And it gives us another guy that can bring the ball up the floor and actually get into the paint. So, we like him with that unit as well."
When Maxey's playing with notable stars such as Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris, he's forced to blend in more with the lineup rather than becoming a primary scorer where he can shine a bit more. While Maxey is becoming a better all-around playmaker who can share the ball, Rivers seems to hint that the former Kentucky standout is best-suited to play with a unit where he's one of the primary scorers.
"I don't know if he's the primary guy with that group, but I would guess it's a little easier for him," Rivers explained. "You know, I don't think people really understand how difficult it is to play with stars. Instead of playing, you tend to spectate a lot and watch. If Joel or Tobias say they're open, then at that position, you feel like you need to give it to him instead of sometimes, you have the opening. So, that's a learned art, and it'll get better and better at that throughout the year."
With Shake Milton back in the mix for the Sixers, Rivers might shake up the lineups every now and then. Considering Milton's been out for the last few weeks, it seems unlikely he'll get the nod to start right away. However, as he gets his feet wet once again, it shouldn't be a total shock if Milton garners minutes in the starting lineup, forcing Maxey to come off the bench with the backup unit once again.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.