In these frustratingly uncertain of times, writing about something like basketball seems pretty trivial. We all have more questions than there seems to be answers for: questions related to health concerns, distancing concerns, political concerns, economic concerns - you name it. Questions about sports (as in “if/when they are even coming back in the summer, fall, or beyond. *Editor’s note: We’re back July 31st) in our society are pretty low on the list of important or prioritized concerns at the moment.
But this is a professional basketball blog; I’m not here (because I’m nowhere near equipped nor qualified) to even attempt to try and tackle the unprecedented problems the world currently faces. We’re here for you at Orlando Pinstriped Post to try and provide a short-term getaway/distraction in any way that we can.
For me, that’s talking the NBA Draft. It goes without saying that the process leading up to the NBA Draft this year will be unlike any other players, agents, scouts, and league executives have ever experienced. I would assume the league passes on holding a pre-draft combine (*Editor’s note: The NBA officially announced on June 5th that the Draft Lottery will be conducted on August 25th. The NBA Draft Combine is also tentatively scheduled to take place in August). With travel basically coming to a halt, teams likely won’t have the benefit of bringing prospects in for workouts/interviews. Advanced scouting (through March) and film-study appear to be avenues teams will have to heavily rely upon with this draft.
I mean, at this point, we don’t even know if there will be an NBA Draft in June (could it possibly be postponed, re-scheduled? *Editor’s note: the NBA announced the draft will be held on October 15th). Without the information or guidance to answer many of these basketball related questions, I’m going to push forward with scouting reports of players in this class that could be available when the Magic pick in the first round of the ‘20 NBA Draft (although, we don’t know at this time when that pick will be made - I assume somewhere in the 15-16 range).
I will be putting these reports together over the next couple of months (and possibly longer), which include loose NBA comparisons for each prospect, film observations, talking points, a case for the Magic needing/drafting the prospect, and more. Up next in the series is a one-and-done prospect out of the University of Kentucky (via Garland, TX), guard Tyrese Maxey.
Probably won’t happen: Joe Dumars (same measurements...Nope, not comparing him to a Hall of Fame legend), Ben Gordon (was a more consistent shooter than Maxey), Kyle Lowry (possesses natural lead-guard instincts that Maxey doesn’t currently play with)
Possibly could happen: Avery Bradley, Keyon Dooling (but with more scoring/offensive upside)
Eye in the sky
-Strange shooting-form: releases the ball from his waist, feet rarely seem to be square/ankles and feet are very closed, questionable range-shooter
-Seems to favor driving opposite of the screen in pick-and-roll situations (as the ball-handler)
-Definitely looks to score/make something happen for himself as the pick-and-roll initiator
-Above-average touch at the rim, and he also shows excellent body control driving to the basket
-He’s a chore to guard off the ball, constantly moving and rubbing off screens
-Verticality wasn’t a problem for him in the paint as a freshmen; proverbial “plays bigger than he is” prospect
-His shot looks completely different to me from the free throw line. Very clean, consistent shooter from the stripe - will that translate behind the NBA three-point line as time goes on?
-Aggressive on-ball defender, shows tenaciousness. He possesses good feet, quick hips, and he already has a relatively strong frame. All bodes well for defending in NBA pick-and-roll situations
-Forced some ugly shots at Kentucky. Not terrible shooting off the dribble, but with the space he needs (due to the low-release) to get his shot off, it leads to unbalanced attempts at times
Best films of the season
11/5 vs. Michigan State: 26 points (7-12 FGA’s, 3-7 3PTA’s, 9-10 FTA’s), 5 rebounds
12/28 vs. Louisville: 27 points (9-14 FGA’s, 4-5 3PTA’s, 5-6 FTA’s), 7 rebounds
Resume & By the numbers
- Was named Texas Mr. Basketball (‘19) while playing for South Garland High School, just outside of Dallas, Texas
- Participated in the Nike Hoops Summit, Jordan Brand Classic, and McDonald’s All-American Games (‘19)
- SEC All-Freshmen Team, All-SEC Second-Team (‘20)
- Scored 20 or more points in a single contest on six different occasions his freshmen season, including the 26 points he scored in his collegiate debut against Michigan State
- Dished-out six or more assists in a game five separate times in 2019-20
1) Is there anything he’s elite at offensively?
When I evaluate prospects, one of the first things I consider is their perceived “strengths”. Players are far from finished products when they enter the NBA, that’s why they are referred to as “prospects (or sometimes even projects)”. Nitpicking areas of concern within a prospect’s game is part of the process, but I believe it’s just as important to keep in mind the skills and attributes the player already possesses that are strong, possibly even “elite” (compared to others in their class). My point being, what is Maxey elite at doing on the floor - what are his perceived strengths? He has shown potential in areas, sure. He flashed elite offensive skills at times over the course of his freshmen season (like in his debut against Michigan State) that proved Maxey deserved to be mentioned in the lottery discussion with the other elite prospects in his class, but those moments were few and far between.
Maxey was advertised as a prospect with serious scoring potential, stemming from his achievements playing in high school and on the AAU circuit. But within Kentucky’s system, Maxey failed to enjoy much offensive efficiency nor volume to speak of. He scored 20 points or more in six of 31 contests this past season, essentially once every five games or so. Maxey shot at least fifty percent from the floor in 35% of his games in ‘19-’20 (11 of 31 games), and made three or more three-point field goals in a contest on just four occasions. Of course, the University of Kentucky is a program stocked with talented players each year. Playing unselfishly and within Coach Calipari’s system is an expectation in Lexington, so I’m not surprised that Maxey’s usage (and resulting counting stats) was lower than expected last year. But still, you would certainly hope that a 6-3 shooting guard would give you better shooting efficiency while on the floor (and Maxey did not: 42.7% from the floor, 29% from beyond the arc, 53% true shooting percentage). His 83.3% convergence rate at the free throw line as a freshmen is promising, and it probably has some scouts thinking that Maxey’s shooting numbers this past season were perhaps an anomaly (and he finished just under sixty percent of his attempts at the rim, you have to like that as well).
I’m not overwhelmingly impressed with Maxey’s overall feel for the game (offensively). He has shown a limited ability to create some for others, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a strength for him (he can make traditional reads, but lacks advanced vision). And I’m not enamored with his handle either - there’s probably a lot to clean-up at the next-level in that department.
If there was one area last season where Maxey excelled, it was in pick-and-roll situations (as the ball-handler). According to his Synergy profile, Maxey produced 84 points as the pick-and-roll initiator in ‘19-’20 (over 84 possessions). That 1.0 point per possession he produced as the pick-and-roll initiator placed him in the 93rd percentile at the collegiate-level.
2) Point of attack defender
While I have raised my concerns about Maxey’s offensive upside in the NBA, his defensive aptitude and mentality is something that is present in any film you watch of him. Maxey is a tenacious point of attack defender. As arguably the top defensive guard (in the range where he’s projected to be selected) in the draft, Maxey has a lot going for him on his opponent’s side of the floor: quick feet, quick hips, quick reactionary instincts (that help him on closeouts).
I think Maxey will be able to guard both point guards and shooting guards in the NBA. At 6-3 with a 6-6 wingspan, he doesn’t possesses tremendous length to guard NBA wing players. But similar to a Donovan Mitchell, Maxey plays “big”; he’s strong, has a solid frame, and the defensive awareness he plays with helps the combo-guard with positioning/balance.
At his core, Maxey is a competitor - and nowhere does that show in his game more than when he’s defending. His steal percentage wasn’t as high this past season as one would expect, but that also could be a product of Kentucky’s system. Maxey has the quickness, the instincts, and the hip fluidity to be a defensive presence at the next level. Sure, there will be nights when he’s out-sized by bigger/stronger wing players, that happens to all young guards as they cut their teeth in the NBA. But overall, I’m not worried about Maxey, I think he will be a career net-positive defensive player.
Making a case for the Magic to draft Tyrese Maxey in the ‘20 Draft
|With D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams set to hit free agency this summer,
would Maxey provide the Magic with needed depth at the point guard position?
With Evan Fournier's decision to possibly opt out of his contract and become an
unrestricted free agent this summer looming, would Maxey provide the Magic
with needed depth at a wing position?
|The Magic ranked 28th in the league in eFG% last season, 27th in scoring, 27th
in field goal percentage, 25th in three-point field goal percentage, and 24th in
Offensive Rating. Could Maxey potentially help the Magic in any of these areas?
|Does Maxey fit the Jeff Weltman/John Hammond archetype?||Yes and No|
Would selecting Maxey in the middle of the first round be considered a
Through the three drafts that Orlando’s current executive team has been in charge (led by Jeff Weltman: President of Basketball Operations, John Hammond: General Manager), the Magic have been painstakingly predictable with the type of players they’ve targeted. Weltman and Hammond value character first and foremost. They also seem to be infatuated with wingspan/length (Isaac, Iwundu, Bamba, Frazier Jr., Okeke) and defensive positional versatility (maybe not Bamba so much, but holds true for the other guys).
I put together a Magic-specific draft checklist above, and drafting Tyrese Maxey would help Orlando address a few areas of need. First of all, the Magic will likely need to bring in a point guard (or two) in the off-season due to the fact that both of their current back-up point guards will be free agents at the conclusion of this season. The organization can address this probable need through the draft, or possibly through free agency (mid-level exception). Secondly, the Magic could find themselves a little thin on the wing if potential free agent Evan Fournier decides to opt out of the final year of his current contract.
While I don’t think Maxey will be ready to play back-up minutes in the NBA right away, I do believe drafting him could alleviate some of the pressure the Magic might experience if Fournier were to opt out (the organization would still likely target a more veteran wing for the short-term in that hypothetical as well). And while Maxey may not be the elite shooter that an Aaron Nesmith or Devin Vassell is, I do think he could potentially provide the Magic with some help creating half-court offense. Ultimately, I’m somewhat torn when it comes to deciding if Maxey is a Weltman/Hammond-type prospect (or not). With their previous selections of Isaac and Bamba, it’s apparent that Jeff Weltman and John Hammond value defensive-minded prospects, and I would place Maxey into that category. I think he will be able to defend both guard positions at the next-level, which would provide the Magic with the type of defensive versatility that their leadership group admires. However, the front office also clearly values positional size (and reach), and those are two attributes where Maxey falls a little short (no pun intended, 6-3 shooting guard with a +3 wingspan).
There’s a possibility that Maxey will still be available when it’s Orlando’s turn (assuming the pick is somewhere in the middle of the first round) to make their selection. As of June 20th, ESPN currently ranks Maxey as the 14th “best player available” on their board. Kevin O’Connor (The Ringer) lists the former Kentucky guard 11th on his big board (released May 19th), and Sam Vecenie (The Athletic) has Maxey sitting 13th on his latest big board (Version 6.0, updated June 18th).
Pick-and-roll effectiveness is one of the most important skills a guard in today’s NBA can master. For that reason alone, the Magic should give Tyrese Maxey a long look. He may not possess the natural point-guard skills leading pick-and-roll offense like a Theo Maledon does, but Maxey produces results nonetheless. He also happens to play a position where the Magic could find themselves lacking some depth. I will say this: Maxey is a young man who came into the ‘19-’20 season highly ranked and regarded - he’s been in the conversation as a potential top-10 pick throughout this process. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ultimately starts to slip on draft night towards the back-end of the lottery, and that puts him directly within the range of where Orlando (likely) will be picking from. The Magic valued their board and drafted both Isaac and Bamba under the premise that they were clearly the best players available those years, regardless of position. If Maxey were to slightly fall out of the projected range where many believe he will be taken, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Magic nabbed the Texas native, investing in his upside as a potential “best player available”.
Aaron Goldstone has been writing for Orlando Pinstriped Post since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @AaronGoldstone.
You can also find his scouting reports of Kira Lewis Jr., R.J. Hampton, Aaron Nesmith, Devin Vassell and Theo Maledon here.