Right now, the Philadelphia 76ers‘ prospects are looking bad.
After allowing the Toronto Raptors to get back into the first round of the playoffs despite holding a 3-0 series lead, the Sixers now trail the top-seeded Miami Heat 2-0 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
After franchise player and potential league MVP Joel Embiid missed the first two games versus Miami with an orbital fracture and concussion, there was hope that he could return for Game 3, but he was listed as out on Thursday evening.
But there is some good news for the Sixers, and it not only helps them right now but in the future as well.
It appears they have a new star in Tyrese Maxey.
Maxey Is A Diamond In The Rough
Maxey, who is one of many NBA players from the University of Kentucky, was drafted by the 76ers with the 21st pick in the 2020 draft.
Usually, late first-round picks like him aren’t expected to become stars, and teams are happy if they merely become solid role players for years to come.
The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex native didn’t play a ton as a rookie, averaging 15.3 minutes and scoring 8.0 points per game.
Still, a couple of times last season, he showed glimpses of his best self, scoring 39 points with seven rebounds and six assists in an early season contest against the Denver Nuggets.
Tyrese Maxey showed out for the short-handed 76ers.
The rookie finished with 39 points in the 115-103 loss to the Nuggets.
— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) January 9, 2021
This season, with Ben Simmons refusing to play after demanding a trade, Maxey was given more playing time, and he delivered, averaging 17.5 points on 48.5 percent shooting and 42.7 percent accuracy from 3-point range in 35.3 minutes a game.
The 6-foot-2 guard also improved his playmaking abilities, registering 4.3 assists per game this season, and after splitting time between the 1 and 2 spots last year, he has played almost every single minute at point guard this year.
It’s one thing for a young player to emerge as he has, but the true test of a player’s value and ability is the playoffs, and thus far, Maxey is passing that test.
He Has Stepped Things Up Lately
In the Sixers’ playoff opener against the Raptors, Maxey turned things up to 11, going a flaming-hot 14-21 from the field and scoring 38 points in Philly’s 20-point win.
Later, with Embiid playing through an injured thumb on his shooting hand, the second-year man had 25 points and eight assists to help the Sixers make the Raptors go extinct for the summer, 132-97.
Now that Embiid is out, Maxey has continued his impressive play.
Even though Philly was thoroughly outclassed by the Heat in the first two games of the East semis, Maxey did just about all he could to give it a chance in Game 2 with 34 points.
📊 34 PTS | 3 REB | 2 STL | 12-22 FG pic.twitter.com/2drv1QtN7r
— NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) May 5, 2022
With James Harden continuing to play as if he’s washed up, Maxey will need to continue to be at his apex, even when or if Embiid returns.
With the series moving to the Delaware Valley for the next two games, now is the Sixers’ opportunity to even things up and give the Heat something to think about, especially if Heat point guard Kyle Lowry is still unable to play due to a bad hamstring.