During the 2021-2022 NBA season, Philadelphia 76ers sophomore Maxey caused a stir as a dark horse nominee for a possible win of the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
With the Sixers in a tight spot with three-time All-Star point guard Ben Simmons awaiting a trade, Philly hosted a not-so-quiet contest for the starting point guard position earlier in the season.
Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey battled in training camp and preseason. The sophomore standout won and started the year in Philly’s Starting Five. With Simmons never returning to the court, Maxey cemented his role as a full-time starter.
And after the Sixers traded Simmons and other plays for James Harden, nothing changed in Maxey’s place on the depth chart. During his first season as a full-time starter, Maxey has exceeded all expectations.
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Last season, the young guard averaged eight points, two assists and one rebound while shooting 46 percent from the field and 30 percent from three. This year, Maxey doubled that feat as he averaged 17 points per game, four assists and three rebounds while putting down 48 percent of his shots and 42 percent of his three-pointers.
After appearing in 75 games this year, it could be argued that Maxey’s significant jump as a sophomore is worthy of winning the Most Improved Player award. However, voters will not allow Maxey to receive this award.
On Sunday, the NBA announced the three finalists for the award. San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray, Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant and Cleveland Cavaliers standout Darius Garland are all in contention.
Maxey, who could be close to the top, looks at the top three from the outside. While Maxey won’t have the opportunity to get his hands on the Most Improved Player award, the young guard can still feel good about showing up as a sophomore as he played an important role with the Sixers who might fight for a title.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter for live updates: @JGrasso_.