The Sixers had a big question mark surrounding the point guard position heading into the 2021-2022 NBA season. As their full-time starting point guard Ben Simmons requested a trade and embarked on a holdout, the Sixers had no choice but to give the former first-round pick Tyrese Maxey a shot.
While it's still early on in the season, Maxey has not only exceeded expectations so far. In fact, he's been far better than many expected him to be through his first 17 games. With the Sixers being shorthanded throughout a good portion of the season, Maxey has had to average about 35 minutes on the floor.
During that time, he's put up 18 points per game while shooting 42-percent from three and 52-percent from the field overall. In addition, he averaged 4.6 assists per game and 3.7 rebounds per game while turning the ball over just 1.2 times per outing.
Before he came to the Sixers, veteran forward Georges Niang didn't know much about the former Kentucky product. As Maxey averaged just 15 minutes on the floor in 61 games during his rookie season, the young guard hadn't quite made a name for himself outside of Philadelphia at the time.
At this point, Niang has bought into the idea that the young Maxey is the real deal. Following the Sixers' tough loss against the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night, Niang spoke on Maxey's standout performance. As the second-year guard put up 28 points in 35 minutes, he gave the shorthanded Sixers a chance to come out on top. And if it weren't for Maxey, Philly probably would've suffered an ugly loss.
"I think his development is happening very quickly, and he's definitely turned into a killer," Niang said on Saturday. "The kid just gets the ball, and you turn and think you're running somewhere, and next thing you know, he's doing that funky right-hand layup that seems to go in every time. The growth of him has been amazing to see, especially since the beginning of the year."
Early on in the process of Maxey becoming a starter, the young guard admitted that he got away from playing his game. Once he was told just to be himself on the court and play the way he knows best -- Maxey blossomed into a stellar starter -- and Georges Niang isn't surprised considering how hard he works.
"It's pretty impressive to see it every day and see every notch of his game get unlocked," Niang said. "He's making shots. He's making fall-aways. I know he works with Sam (Cassell), and that's kind of Sam's shot, but he's kind of adopted that fall away, and he's making three's. The kid has been doing it all, and I couldn't be more happy for him."
Although the Sixers have struggled throughout their current six-game stretch, Maxey has been a bright spot for the team. Since the road trip began two Saturdays ago, Maxey has put up 22 points per game while knocking down 57-percent of his shots, with 53-percent of his threes going in. There is still a lot of season left to be played, but the former Kentucky product continues to show impressive flashes during such a short amount of time, which is a promising sight for the 76ers.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.