The Trail Blazers’ 2019-20 season is firmly in the rearview mirror and the 2020 NBA Draft is now on the horizon. As of now, the draft is scheduled for November 18. Unlike last year, the Blazers enter the process with two picks at their disposal. Portland currently owns the No. 16 pick in the first round and the No. 46 pick in the second round.
Today’s profile looks at Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey. As a freshman, Maxey routinely carved up opposing defenses with his ability to score inside the arc.
- Height: 6’3”
- Weight: 200
- Wingspan: 6’6”
- Shoots: Right
- Position: G
- Age: 20
- Projected draft range: 12-17
- PTS: 14.0 | Per 40: 16.2
- AST: 3.2 | Per 40: 3.7
- STL: 0.9 | Per 40: 1.0
- FG%: 42.7
- 3P%: 29.2
- FT%: 83.3
Maxey’s scoring touch and knack for generating points from isolation plays sets him apart from his peers. Buoyed by his quick and decisive footwork, Maxey is an expert at getting his defender off balance as he works downhill towards the rim. If an opponent closes out too hastily, he deftly rocks them in one direction with his shoulders before slicing to the paint with his opposite hand. At the rim, like his drives, Maxey is a comfortable shooter with either hand. If he fails to make it all the way to the rim, the 20-year-old guard has a NBA-ready floater in his arsenal.
When he isn’t looking for his own shot, Maxey is in constant motion. He weaves around off-ball screens with purpose, forcing his opponent to work on every possession. If one of his teammates is stuck with the ball under pressure, Maxey instinctually gets in position to act as a safety valve.
Defensively, Maxey is an absolute joy to watch. On the ball, he practically climbs inside his assignment’s jersey and avoids drawing whistles in the process. Away from the ball, Maxey rotates effectively and expertly times his entry into passing lanes in order to create steals. Armed with a 6-foot-6 wingspan, Maxey can guard either backcourt position.
Outside of scoring inside the arc, Maxey’s game is a work in progress. His low(er) release point is compact and functional, but it significantly cuts down on the space between his shot and an outstretched arm of a defender. Even in wide-open, catch-and-shoot chances, Maxey struggles to reach a pedestrian level of efficiency. As a facilitator, the Texas native has only popped in fast-moving transition sets. Maxey has the tools to become a pick-and-roll maestro, but he has yet to show that he can reliably read a collapsing defense.
Athletically, Maxey is not the explosive athlete that his isolation numbers would suggest. He relies on scoring through tight windows, and that available space is going to shrink at the next level.
Maxey announced his presence early in his Kentucky career with a 26-point outburst against Michigan State. Fueled by his ability to tie opponents in knots, Maxey led the way for a Wildcats squad that finished with a stellar 25-6 overall record. At the conclusion of the season, Maxey earned a place on the SEC All-Freshman Team and he secured All-SEC Second Team honors.
The NBA is enjoying an offense-first era and Maxey’s penchant for generating points fits nicely into that box. In the right situation, it is easy to tab Maxey as a burgeoning sixth-man operator, cast from the same mold as Lou Williams. If he hopes to continue exploiting defenders on close outs, his outside shooting must improve. The good news is that his free throw percentage is a strong indicator that it will.
Maxey is not the most athletically gifted guard in the 2020 class, but I would argue that he is the craftiest. His ability to dictate his path to the rim by switching speeds with a defender on his hip is reminiscent of Brandon Roy’s scoring prowess.
Maxey falls in an odd middle ground of potential prospects for the Trial Blazers. Anfernee Simons, at this point, would have a leg up on Maxey for reserve guard minutes next season. Moving forward, there might be other options at No. 16 with higher long-term ceilings. That said, Maxey is a tenacious defender that possesses a history of scoring at a high level. If you are looking at pure intangibles and previous production, Maxey fits the mold of a player that could capture Neil Olshey’s attention.