In 2001, I remember the magical Finals run of the Iverson-led Sixers team that won ten games to start the year. Today, I have that same feeling of optimism with the addition of solid role players and a healthier James Harden.
I have plenty of reasons to bet on the Sixers to make their first trip to the NBA Finals in over two decades, and by default, one of them is the dominance of Joel Embiid. It is no question that he will be the best big man in the NBA this year, so I have no need to make that a major focus in this article. Rather than state the obvious related to Embiid, I have three other reasons to spread positivity.
I will start with one of the most likable hometown athletes who got here not too long ago.
Why the Sixers will reach the NBA Finals: Another Maxey leap
If you thought Tyrese Maxey’s leap last year was remarkable, wait until this season. With another offseason to train and build upon his already impressive skill set, Maxey could be in for another scoring jump. I predict Maxey will average over 20 points per game this season.
Last year, for Maxey to go from 8.0 points per game to 17.5 is astonishing. It’s amazing because second-year players rarely show such a grow spurt. He left Kentucky after his freshman year, and luckily for the Sixers, when he fell to them in the draft in 2020, they selected him as the 21st pick. Just as fortunate, his maturity and unexpected surge catapulted him into a starting role after the Ben Simmons drama. Since, the Sixers’ spark plug guard has surpassed plenty of expectations.
Another impressive stat is his 3-point shooting. Tyrese Maxey went from 30.1 percent to 42.7 percent per game in just one year. His volume was not as high as some would like (4.1), but his accuracy, if maintained, should keep defenses honest, which should help spacing for Joel Embiid.
More importantly, Maxey’s attitude has helped him blossom. As open-minded as every young player should be, he has absorbed lessons from the coaching staff and his teammates. With Doc Rivers’ guidance and Sam Cassell’s instruction, Maxey has gained trust. From James Harden, the third-year guard has developed a bond and confidence to become an integral piece of the Sixers rotation.
I expect Maxey to become the second most important and effective scorer on the Sixers this year. As training camp has started, it appears that Rivers has given Maxey more freedom to expand his scoring role. If Maxey can add another move or two to his already potent offensive game, his speed and fierce competitiveness will drive up the team’s point total and be a fine complement to Joel Embiid’s post game.