Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Stiffs breaks down players the Nuggets could select with the 22nd pick in the NBA Draft
Tyrese Maxey, PG/SG, Kentucky
Age: 19 (11/4/2000)
Athleticism and Quickness
The thing that stands out most with Maxey is how shifty he is with the ball in his hands. At just under 200 pounds, Maxey can start and stop on a dime, creating space for himself as a driver and jump shooter. There are very few players on either end of the floor that stayed in front of him at the college level.
Slashing and Finishing
To make up for a lack of physicality when driving to the rim, Maxey uses craftiness and a change of direction when driving to the rim and frequently finds the soft spot in a defense to hit shots in the paint. He has a floater in his bag that helps him avoid egregious contact. He isn’t going to overpower anyone, but he’s also unafraid and will throw himself at defenders on occasion to prevent them from blocking his shot. That may or may not work at the NBA level, but it worked in college.
Though it didn’t translate at the college three-point line, Maxey’s shooting mechanics show he has promise as an outside shooter. His three-point percentage (29.2%) tells a drastically different story than his free throw percentage (83.3%), the latter of which is generally a better indicator for three-point shooting at the NBA level. Maxey’s release is a little funky, but working with an NBA developmental program should iron out those issues.
Defensive IQ and Motor
Though Maxey’s size will always be a concern, he works hard on the defensive end of the floor to bother opposing ball handlers and shooters. He does great work mirroring ball handlers on the perimeter to prevent straight line drives, walling off the paint and forcing players to shoot over his (short) frame. His hands are in passing lanes, his feet are always moving, and he reads the court pretty well. He’s a classic primary guard defender.
The 6’6 wingspan combined with a sub 200 pound frame could always be a potentially limiting factor when discussing Maxey’s ceiling. He hasn’t hit an NBA weight room yet, so there’s still time for him to build up his body; however, he will be limited to defending only point guards and less physical shooting guards at his current size. Playoff offenses will seek him out on switches and post him up at the next level unless he improves his foundation physically.
High Level perimeter shooting
While the jump shot may eventually come around, it’s still a concern right now. Maxey attempts many difficult shots on the perimeter both in catch-and-shoot and off the dribble situations. It’s very impossible that he ends up being a guard that attempts difficult shots, doesn’t make them at an efficient enough clip, and becomes a negative offensive player because of it.
Tunnel vision is probably the right word for it. Maxey had some good passes, but there weren’t a lot of high level reads/passes that he executed. Kentucky started two non-shooters and a point guard that shot 25.8% from three, so it’s possible that a spaced floor will help him as a passer. Still, it’s something to monitor.
Projected Draft Range: Mid first, late first
Denver Stiffs Big Board: 11th overall
NBA Comparison: Kyle Lowry lite/Leandro Barbosa
Why Maxey makes sense for Denver
There are very few guard defenders in this draft that have potential scoring chops that are better than Maxey. His mechanics and instincts are good enough to believe he will be more efficient at the NBA level, though assuming as much might get teams in trouble. Maxey’s best position at the NBA level is yet to be determined, but position he will guard most frequently is quick and shifty point guards. There are plenty of those in the West for the Nuggets to deal with, and Jamal Murray could use a respite in those situations.
The Nuggets would be betting on the lineage of Kentucky guards translating to NBA success. In the last five years, Devin Booker, Jamal Murray, De’Aaron Fox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Tyler Herro have all been selected in between the fifth and 13th picks in the NBA Draft. If Maxey were to fall to 22, it’s possible that he has more to show at the NBA level similar to the prospects before him. The Nuggets could use another two-way guard prospect, given the impending free agency of Monte Morris in 2021, the uncertainty surrounding PJ Dozier, and the possibility that Gary Harris or Will Barton could be moved in a trade.
Why Maxey doesn’t make sense for Denver
If the Nuggets don’t move any member of their guard rotation in a trade this offseason, then it’s likely that Maxey would barely play for the entire 2021 season. He isn’t better than the options the Nuggets currently have, and given his need to focus on a strength program when he arrives at the NBA level, his effectiveness might be limited even if he did receive an opportunity.
Furthermore, the Nuggets have needs on their roster right now. It’s possible that their ideal backcourt partner with Jamal Murray going forward is someone who specializes in defending wings rather than guards. That isn’t in Maxey’s skill set right now. Given his deficiencies as an outside shooter and his physical limitations, he might be a player the Nuggets should stay away from.
Denver’s offseason is unlikely to be determined by whoever they draft at 22. They might not even spend the pick. If they were to select Maxey, it would be a reasonable gamble given his aggressiveness at the point of attack and willingness to make winning plays no matter what the cost. He’s a competitor, a smart defender, a developing shooter, a solid finisher, and potentially interesting change-of-pace guard. The Nuggets have need of those skills off their bench and could do a lot worse than selecting Maxey at 22nd overall.
I like Maxey. I think he has an NBA future, possibly as a starter or possibly as a sixth man type. He will need to make strength improvements, improve the mechanics on his outside jump shot, and cultivate other skills outside of his slashing to the rim. He wouldn’t be a member of Denver’s rotation next season, but going forward, with questions about all guards on the roster outside of Jamal Murray, I can see Denver taking a chance on another Kentucky product.