This year has been anything but typical for NBA players, but Philadelphia 76ers rookie Tyrese Maxey wouldn't really know the difference. Before March of 2020, when the NBA shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Maxey was still a freshman at the University of Kentucky.
After a tremendous season in the NCAA, Maxey decided to gamble on himself and declare for the 2020 NBA Draft instead of taking on another year running Kentucky's offense. The young guard was projected to get taken as a lottery pick, but he somehow fell out of favor with the selecting teams back in November.
When the Sixers were on the board with the 21st pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Kentucky guard was waiting patiently for his name to get called while sitting at home with his family. When it was Daryl Morey, and Elton Brand's time to make a selection, Maxey became their guy.
Usually, a player like Maxey would have the opportunity to showcase his skills in the Summer League before getting a full training camp playing alongside veterans gearing up to take on an 82-game season.
But this year, there was hardly any of that. The Summer League didn't happen. Training camp was barely normal, and the typical 82-game format was changed to 72 games as the season started a lot later than usual.
“It’s been crazy,” Maxey said in regards to his first year in the NBA. “Everybody asks how different it is in normal times, but it’s our first year as rookies, so that’s all we know as normal. So, it’s been great to me. I really enjoyed the experience.”
With two games left on the regular-season schedule, Maxey will begin to wrap up his rookie year on Sunday against the Orlando Magic. Although the Sixers are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, it's unclear if Maxey will play a role in the postseason or not.
Therefore, these next two games will be critical for the rookie as they could be the final matchups where he earns meaningful minutes before the 76ers reach a point where there is absolutely no room for error.
“[I'm looking for] just attention to detail,” Maxey said earlier this week when asked about what his goals are as the season winds down. “Paying attention to a lot of details of our team and what we’re trying to do and what the other team is trying to do and trying to take them out of what they’re trying to do. That’s the biggest thing for me right now.”
Throughout the year, Maxey's been in and out of Philly's rotation. While Doc Rivers mentioned he wouldn't hesitate to play the rookie in the playoffs, there's no guarantee the former Kentucky standout will actually acquire any minutes when it's do-or-die for the 76ers.
The next two games could be a good opportunity for Maxey to showcase how worthy he is of cracking the postseason rotation, but he won't be pressing the issue. Maxey made it clear this year he wants to develop into a much better player, and he's focused on keeping that goal the same over the next few games.