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August 09, 2021

Summer League observations: Sixers dominate Mavericks with Tyrese Maxey leading the way

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Tyrese_Maxey_7_Hornets_Sixers_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey.

The Sixers laid a beatdown on the Dallas Mavericks in their Summer League opener, winning a 95-73 laugher you could argue was more lopsided than the score suggests. Tyrese Maxey led the way for Philadelphia with 21 points, five rebounds, and four assists, making up for lost time after Summer League was scrapped last year.

Here's what I saw.

The Good

• Maxey is officially on 'Too Good For Summer League' watch. I think he'll benefit from getting a bunch of reps in and playing as the alpha dog for this group, but based on what we saw Monday and what he proved in the playoffs, this kid is far beyond most of the competition in Las Vegas.

A lot of what we saw on Monday afternoon was a continuation of his 2020-21 season, as the Kentucky product attacked the rim and tried to overcome size in the paint by initiating contact or attempting floaters over outstretched arms. Those were not exactly surprising things to see, but he got to lead the offense as the undisputed alpha for Philadelphia, and it was nice to see him do more of the things he's already good at.

But here's why his game was exciting, and why Summer League could be useful for young Maxey — as the head of the snake, Maxey got to try a lot of stuff that wasn't in his repertoire as a rookie. It appears Maxey has the green light to hunt his shot whenever he wants coming out of pick-and-rolls, and Maxey knocked down a pull-up three off a screen and a sidestep three from the elbow extended in the first half.

Maxey dominated the Mavericks so completely for a lot of this game that they started trapping him coming out of pick-and-rolls in the second half, a ridiculous step in this setting (but almost certainly the right one). 

A version of Maxey that can get downhill and punish teams who give him space beyond the arc is a high-level contributor right now, forgetting how much developing he can do down the line. Getting these reps in during a low stakes event like Summer League is to his and the team's benefit, and it should help him get closer to being Philadelphia's undisputed second unit leader by the time the season starts (a more realistic goal than asking him to be a starter for the Sixers already).

Philadelphia held onto Maxey during a lot of high-stakes discussions last season, and they believe in this kid in a big way. We're only one game in, but he was the best player on the floor, and that's exactly what you want to see at this stage of his development. 

• Jaden Springer was having quite a difficult time finding his footing in the first half, missing shot after shot and inspiring plenty of angst on social media. The Sixers drafted another kid who can't shoot? The horror!

There's good news on two different fronts: Springer settled in on offense as the game wore on, and the defensive instincts he showed off at Tennessee were every bit as good and impactful in a Summer League setting. He has a skill that can get him on the floor, and that will buy him time to work on everything else.

The thing that stood out from Springer on defense was the absurd amount of discipline he played with for an 18-year-old. There were numerous opportunities for Springer to make a bad gamble, to put a foot wrong on a transition play, to give up on a play where the Sixers looked beat, or to miss a rotation on the weakside. If he erred more than a couple of times, I would be shocked. Throughout the game, Springer's decision-making either immediately led to a positive play for Philadelphia or bought his teammates enough time to get back in the picture and make a play.

It's clearly going to take some time for him to be a useful offensive player, but he had a couple of nice finishes in traffic in the second half, a made corner three early in the third quarter, and he's confident as a pull-up shooter from midrange. A defensive ace with room to grow is not a bad guy to have in the program.

• Isaiah Joe cooled off as the game wore on, but it is truly remarkable how effortless his deep-range threes look. This kid has never met a shot he didn't like, and his confidence combined with his touch should provide the Sixers with competition for the backup shooter role.

Doc Rivers seems to be a pretty big fan of Furkan Korkmaz, and Joe's defensive instincts are, uh, questionable to say the least, but he will and can shoot in just about any situation. The highlight of his day was a beautiful stepback three early in the first half, and Joe's shooting barrage was enough to carry Philadelphia while the rest of the team found their footing.

• Paul Reed had moments where you were reminded that his coach didn't trust him much last year — he has stretches where he just seems like he's getting in everyone's way on offense — but he was disruptive with his activity and defense throughout the game, helping turn this game into a complete laugher in the second half.

Figuring out who and what Reed is will be a key for him and the team moving forward. I'm not sure he has the instincts to play full-time center, given some of the occasional space out moments he has on defense, and he's got a long way to go before teams respect him enough as a shooter to play him next to another big (especially a non-shooting big) at this level. But he plays damn hard, he's a terrific athlete, and every so often, he uncorks one like this and makes you dream of what could happen if he puts it all together:

Don't get carried away, but he's fun as all hell, if nothing else.

• If the Summer Sixers play like this the rest of the way, they are likely going to compete for, if not win, the Summer League championship. Philadelphia's defensive intensity and cohesion was miles beyond what you expect out of most teams in this setting, and it speaks to the work they got done in camp (as well as the guys they have on board) that they looked this good this early.

Everybody on the team contributed to a great performance for Philly. Reed ripped guys for steals and came up with some highlight-reel blocks, Rayjon Tucker was a human freight train coming off of the bench, Filip Petrusev did an excellent job protecting the rim when the Mavericks proved capable of getting there, and the Maxey-Springer backcourt more than held up their end of the bargain, sparking a lot of fast breaks the other way.

This group showed up ready to battle, and they look like they're in Vegas to make a statement. None of this means that much at the end of the day, but having a fiery group of young guys to push the vets in practice is great for the big club, and should keep them sharp once camp rolls around.

The Bad

• Hard to come up with negatives in a Summer League game Philadelphia won in a comprehensive fashion. Charles Bassey not playing is the big one, though that appears to be a potential contract-related issue he and the team have to figure out. 

The Ugly

• That Mavericks Summer League team is one of the worst Summer League teams I can remember watching, so build some skepticism into any analysis stemming from this game. It'll almost certainly be a bit tougher after this. 

• I don't think this was a Sixers/NBC decision since all of these games are nationally broadcast, but this really would have been a perfect time to have a soft test run for a bunch of candidates for Philadelphia's open play-by-play job. Summer League should have been Philadelphia's version of the Jeopardy celebrity host rotation, just without the nepotism hire at the end. Missed opportunity. 

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