In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, today, we break down the play of Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey.
Let’s get the main talking point out of the way immediately. A number of recent Kentucky guards have outperformed their draft slots in a significant way. From Devin Booker to Jamal Murray to Miami Heat rookie Tyler Herro, former Wildcats seem to find another gear at the next level.
Still, every prospect is unique and there’s no guarantee this means Maxey will do the same. Maxey has been a contentious evaluation to nail down among those who follow this process closely, with a late rise into the lottery for many prognosticators. But is this climb up the rankings truly warranted?
A big reason for the wide variance in his draft stock is his 49.2/29.2/83.3 shooting triple slash from two-point range, three-point range and the free throw line. The poor three-point shooting is an immediate worry, but his strong mark from the charity stripe gives hope that he won’t shoot sub-30% from three going forward. Along with this, he added marks of 14.6, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per-36 minutes despite almost always sharing the floor with multiple high-ranked recruits.
Maxey doesn’t lack for energy, heart or effort. His activity pops off the tape, and is seemingly always jetting around at top speed. At 6’3”, 200-pounds and carrying a plus wingspan, he’ll slot in at either guard spot and provide a slippery quick presence wherever he goes.
The immediate eye-catching skill Maxey possesses is in being a pesky, active on ball defender. He tallied an incredible mark of 0.26 points per possession allowed in one-on-one situations, which placed him in the 97th percentile of college players. His 6’7 ¾” wingspan was an immediate havoc creator for producing turnovers and awkward shots.
Here is Maxey defending probable top-three pick Anthony Edwards around a pin down screen and finishing with a tough closeout.
It’s not a rare occurrence to see Maxey pick up his opponent at 3⁄4 court or even full court to slow down team’s ability to get into their offensive set. His lateral agility to cut the handler off from getting to the top of the key is a sight to behold.
Maxey’s hustle is second to none. He is often seen fighting through screens, making life difficult for those who handle the ball with his active hands and rapidly shuffling feet to stay in proper defensive position. Despite logging over 34 minutes a game, he almost never showed signs of slowing down late in the second half of games and managed to hit a number of key shots down the stretches of games.
Maxey uses his speed and handles well to penetrate the defense and set up others. He can go from defense to offense off a rebound in a snap and speed past unsettled defenses.
As the pick-and-roll game becomes more and more key in secondary playmakers, Maxey has shown the ability to make the right decisions in these sets. In 178 opportunities in the pick-and-roll, Maxey ranked 32nd in this class with 0.95 PPP — points per possession per Synergy.
His mastery over a floater is a huge sticking point going forward. This giant killer is key for a penetrative 6’3” lightning bug like Maxey. He can also finish with either hand around the hoop and from a variety of different angles and body positions, which resulted in a mark of 1.1 PPP at the rim this past season.
Maxey is a better and more willing passer than his reputation might carry. Although his 3.3 assists per 36 minutes isn’t amazing, a lot of this is a product of him sharing the distribution duties with Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley. Maxey usually looks to set up others with his slashing to the rim as a first read unless the opportunity for an easy bucket is readily available.
Viewed through certain lenses, he could be seen as a 1 and a 2 at the next level, switching between the lead guard and the off guard positions depending on whichever landing spot he falls into in the NBA. However, he was possibly miscast as an off guard most of the time at Kentucky when just about any other college roster would have dictated delegating him many more opportunities on the ball on offense.
But calling him a combo guard is bit of a reach for someone who doesn’t space the floor well off the ball. Prior to his one-and-done season in Lexington, his entire upbringing in basketball was as lead guard, so comfort at the shooting guard position will have to come in time.
While quick and built to succeed in the NBA, Maxey’s frame could add some strength especially if he’s asked to cover bigger and more athletic wings going forward.
Maxey proved to have an unreliable jump shot in college. It looks as though he gets poor lower body lift on his shot and tosses up a lot of line drive attempts with little arc. In a recent Klutch Sports Group workout, he seemed to debut a higher release on his jumper, which may be reason for optimism regarding his shot, but only so much stock can be taken from scenes out of a mostly empty gym.
In order for him to operate as a floor spacer, he’ll have to improve on his poor catch-and-shoot marks. With just 0.75 PPP catching and shooting, teams would much rather let him toss up flat-footed shots than let him get a head of steam under himself toward the basket.
Possible fit with the Hawks
Although Maxey played off the ball on offense in a unique three guard lineup at Kentucky, he projects to play on the ball much more going forward. Certainly his shooting is a worry — especially in spot up opportunities — but Maxey comes into the league as a moldable 20-year-old and the chance to iron out those deficiencies.
It would be a mild surprise if the Hawks took Maxey at the No. 6 spot, but I wouldn’t consider it out of the realm of possibility. He could take the ball out of Trae Young’s hands some on offense and generate offense going downhill and kicking to shooters, as well as contest at the point of attack on defense.
Teams almost never can have enough wings who truly defend at a high level on their roster and the Hawks are no exception. Still, if it’s possible to move down a couple of spots, pick up an asset, and still select this Kentucky Wildcat, it will be seen as a good business maneuver. His defensive tenacity and raw quickness means his ceiling is among the highest in the entire class.