Preview of the Sixers training camp: Can the tandem of Maxey and Melton exhibit growth under Coach Nurse?
The Sixers have a squad full of NBA veterans.
On the current Sixers roster, eight players will have reached the age of 30 before the regular season’s end. P.J. Tucker (39), Patrick Beverley (35), and Danny Green (36).
The Sixers’ young guards are a strength. These young guards seem like a good spot to begin our miniseries on significant Sixers themes in advance of the 2023–24 season, even though there is a lot of unknown going into training camp next week at Colorado State University.
Who, exactly, are these security personnel? Most notable are Tyrese Maxey (22) and De’Anthony Melton (25). Two-way rookies Terquavion Smith (20) and Ricky Council IV (22), and the just-turned-21-year-old Jaden Springer Javonte Smart, 24, and David Duke Jr., 23, have both inked Exhibit 10 contracts with the Sixers.
New Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said in his inaugural press conference that they want Maxey to get more pick-and-roll work so that he can improve his reading of the game and his range of possible plays. They’d want him to “impact the ball a lot” and make better use of his tremendous speed to create defensive havoc for other teams.
Melton is already well-established as a top-tier defender heading into his sixth season. Melton’s 126 thefts last season were second only to OG Anunoby, another of Nurse’s previous players.
We anticipate that Melton and Maxey’s interactions this year will be significant. It would make sense to insert Melton into the starting lineup for James Harden if it turns out that Harden won’t be a part of the opening lineup. Melton last year seemed competent and at ease in a wide variety of situations.
It helps that he and Maxey are good friends. They put up a lot of shots after practice, laughed, and threw around some friendly trash talk throughout the early part of their first season as teammates.
Maxey stated after the Sixers’ Game 3 playoff triumph over the Nets, “People thought that we would be beefing or whatever because we were in and out of the (starting) lineups.” But in all seriousness, we are the best of friends on the squad. We’ve got each other’s backs, no matter what! I scolded him for not taking the initiative. He constantly criticizes my lack of assertiveness.
The desire to win and the desire to see each other succeed are two things I believe we have in common. Positively, he performed well. I have no idea where this De’Anthony was throughout the regular season, but now that he has that tiny windmill dunk, he wants to dunk on everything. That’s OK with us.
The Sixers’ 2022–23 season was not very successful when they used a lineup centered on Melton and Maxey. According to Cleaning the Glass, there was a net positive of 1.5 across 1,651 items in those storage lockers.
On the other hand, there are reasons to be hopeful for the pair if you’re looking for them. The presence of Harden in many of these lineups gave opposition offenses an open invitation to exploit mismatches. The Sixers’ defensive prospects aren’t hopeless if there’s enough size to protect the bench against Maxey and Melton. Melton’s 6-foot-8.5-inch height, his ability to handle larger opponents, and his ability to defensively rebound are all pluses.
Over the limited sample size of 180 possessions, the starting five of Maxey, Melton, Tobias Harris, PJ Tucker, and Joel Embiid had a net rating of plus-17.2. The team had a net rating of +50.0 in the playoffs (with a sample size of just 42 possessions).
Having Harden on board opens up several interesting possibilities for Melton, some of which include different types of small-ball teams. Regardless of Harden’s health, it’s likely that Nurse will call on Melton and Beverley to spearhead stretches of high-intensity, pressure-based basketball designed to disrupt the opposition’s rhythm.
Springer also has a stellar reputation as a tenacious defender. Springer’s prospects of playing time in the NBA, or at least of being trusted as the “next man up” when injuries occur, will increase if he continues to grow as a shooter and confident decision-maker in his third professional season.
Springer seems to be developing a more refined strategy as he improves his talents.
On July 1st, immediately before the summer league, he remarked, “I feel like in the G League Finals, I was just going out there and competing.” I wasn’t anxious because I was focused on playing my best and making good decisions. If I do that, I think everything will turn out okay.
With the G League champion Delaware Blue Coats, Smith and Council are certain to rack up a number of memorable moments. One or both of these rookies may surprise everyone by making an immediate impact as NBA reserves.
At this point, it seems reasonable to assume that both Maxey and Melton, alone and together, will be extremely significant contributors to the 2022–23 Sixers.