Nobody wants to trade their incredibly talented, fan-favorite, rising star, but given the current status of the Philadelphia 76ers, it may make sense for the team to do. With James Harden’s trade request and a seeming lack of interest in his talents across the league, it appears unlikely that Philadelphia will be receiving a star in return for him. Even if they do, it would almost assuredly be a flawed star that is not as good as Harden (who isn’t very good to begin with). This is how trade requests tend to work in the NBA.
This leaves Philadelphia with Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid as the only two remaining stars on the team. Building around two stars can certainly be done and has arguably been more effective than building around three or four elite talents, but those two stars generally need to be undoubtedly two of the best players in the league and often fit together. The reality is Maxey is unlikely to become one of the top players in the league during Philadelphia’s championship window.
Embiid and Maxey are not a great fit together.
While one could argue that the Sixers could also trade Embiid with this same logic, Embiid is already at the level needed for a team to win a title. He needs to focus on playoff performance and health. Even more problematic with trading Embiid is the fact that the team does own their draft picks. Trading Embiid surely means a rebuild and rebuilding without having your draft picks is a pointless exercise that would lead to the team wasting Maxey’s career anyway. Embiid has his flaws and people have the right to be down on him, but the criticism has gone too far. He is somebody to build around, but the organization has failed him over the years.
It is unfortunate, but the Sixers do not have many moves left to make, which leads to a potential Maxey trade. To be clear, if there is not a suitable return, they should hold onto Maxey, but they need to explore this option as unfortunate as it may be because the current trajectory of this team looks like it is on the brink of falling apart. The Maxey-Embiid duo is a half-measure for both winning and rebuilding. It is neither a win-now pairing because Maxey is not at his peak in addition to the fit concerns, nor a core to rebuild around given Embiid’s age.
Everyone loves Tyrese Maxey, and rightfully so; however, there will inevitably be a shift when he gets paid. Currently, Maxey is one of the biggest values in the league as he essentially makes Danuel House money, despite being a star. Once Maxey gets his deserved raise, there will be questions if he is worth roughly forty million dollars per year. The same is happening with Desmond Bane as he recently signed a massive extension. As great as Maxey is, it is unlikely that he can provide much value on that price tag with his size and playmaking limitations.
Fit is crucial and while Maxey has developed into an elite, high-volume shooter, he also likes to play fast and is not a natural playmaker. Embiid does not play fast, and the Sixers are going as far as Embiid takes them. Maxey not being a playmaker at his size is extremely problematic. It leaves you with little salary to spread around to a wing and a playmaker. The Sixers will need some incredible luck to make that roster construction work.
Maxey appears to have a special work ethic, but the Sixers need to ask themselves: how much better is Maxey going to get? Sure, he will probably post better stats with Harden out of town, but it is still a lot of added pressure for a young guard being tasked with becoming a primary playmaker. The size limitations are unavoidable and puts a cap on his ceiling. There are of course players that overcame this like Damian Lillard and Allen Iverson, but the odds Maxey will be one of those players soon seems slim.
The organization needs to finally prioritize players that fit with their MVP.
The Sixers currently have a roster consisting of centers, guards, and power forwards. Wings are arguably the most important position in the NBA but are hard to come by. Trading Maxey would be the path to acquiring one.
It is possible the Sixers know this too. They can publicly say whatever they want, but the only reason to not extend Maxey now is if they are exploring trades. If extended, Maxey would fall under the poison pill provision and make it near impossible to trade him. Other than the trade possibilities, there is no tangible benefit to not extending Maxey now.
With that being said, the trade would have to be worth it, and it is unclear who is available or what the price is for some of these wings. Would the Nets entertain a Maxey and Tobias Harris deal for Mikal Bridges and Dinwiddie? Is O.G. Anunoby going to be traded for a realistic price? Could the guard-needy Pelicans part ways with Trey Murphy or Brandon Ingram?
These are the questions the Sixers need to be asking themselves. Maxey is arguably the most valuable piece in any of these deals and appears to be on a path to being a Donovan Mitchell or Jamal Murray-level player, but the Sixers need to win now, and these teams should have immense interest in Maxey. There is very little margin for error with the current situation the team is in, and trading Maxey could be a huge risk, but it may be their only option.