The Philadelphia 76ers' short-term championship ambitions rest firmly on the shoulders of James Harden, but their long-term future will undoubtedly lie with Tyrese Maxey.
HoopsHype's Michael Scotto polled 20 NBA executives to list the players on the cusp of a breakout in 2022-23. Maxey topped the group with five first-place votes, and one general manager had high praise for the young guard.
"Maxey’s going to be better than James Harden," the GM said. "He just keeps getting better and better and will be a huge reason why they have success this season."
Maxey took a massive step forward in his second season, averaging 17.5 points and 4.3 assists while shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 42.7 percent from beyond the arc.
The 21-year-old guard is a big reason why the Sixers were able to maintain a top-four challenge in the Eastern Conference despite missing Ben Simmons and eventually trading him to the Brooklyn Nets.
Based on Philly's 126-117 opening-night loss to the Boston Celtics, Maxey might be hitting yet another level this year. He finished with 21 points, two assists and two steals in 38 minutes on the floor.
The Sixers certainly need him to carry that performance over because the defeat—while just one game in an 82-game season—highlighted some areas that could hold them back.
The bench combined to score 11 points, fewer than Grant Williams and Malcolm Brogdon provided individually for Boston in reserve roles. As much as the front office did to strengthen the roster depth, the offense will likely be heavily reliant on the axis of Maxey, Harden and Joel Embiid.
The Celtics also had a 24-2 scoring edge in fast-break points. The backcourt pair of Harden and Maxey can leave something to be desired on defense, making their offensive contributions all the more critical.
Anchorage Man @SethPartnow
With a Harden/Maxey backcourt there is a ceiling on their defense so their offense will need to be ELITE, and if it’s “4 guys standing and watching” it will top out at pretty good.<br><br>I’ll add that for a team with questionable transition D, bad offensive process is more worrisome.
Beating the Celtics would have allowed the 76ers to lay down an early marker in the battle for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Nonetheless, they provided plenty of reasons to be excited about what's to come, and Maxey showed flashes of the dynamic player he can be on offense.