PHILADELPHIA — Lightning-quick Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey has already established himself as one of the elite sprinters and transition bucket-getters in the league.
But the second-year guard isn’t too quick to forgive the teams that passed him by in the 2020 NBA draft. And one of the teams he thought would select him is the team he’s facing now in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs with a must-win Game 6 for the 76ers at 7 p.m. ET Thursday.
“I thought Miami would take me at No. 20,” Maxey told Yahoo Sports. “Look, I was blessed and happy to be drafted, first and foremost. I thank the Lord every day for this opportunity. It was my dream to be drafted. But also looking at it as a competitor, I felt like I was good enough to be drafted at a higher position. When teams pass up on you, you never forget about it.”
Miami chose Precious Achiuwa with its pick. Philadelphia drafted Maxey at No. 21.
He thought he’d go as early as No. 11 to the San Antonio Spurs.
“Miami, Orlando and San Antonio. Those were the three teams I thought would draft me,” Maxey told Yahoo Sports. “When I started slipping, I was upset, but I kept reminding myself that my dream of getting drafted was coming true.”
San Antonio took guard Devin Vassell out of Florida State. Orlando used its pick at No. 15 to take Cole Anthony out of North Carolina.
Maxey said his agent, Rich Paul, imparted some words of wisdom to help him cope with the draft slippage.
“He used a phrase during the draft process: fit over pick,” Maxey told Yahoo Sports. “He explained that where you’re drafted at is more important than the number you’re drafted at. And I think that really helped me and my mindset. You want to be somewhere where you can play right away, a place where you’re in the right system, the right situation with the right type of guys. And Rich knowing me, he knew I liked to win. So I’m thankful to be in a place where I can be competitive and help a team win a championship right away.”
The 21-year-old had a breakout year for the Sixers in his sophomore campaign, averaging 17.5 points and shooting 42.7% from distance during the regular season. He has elevated that offensive production in the playoffs with a 20.8 ppg scoring clip.
He has emerged as an offensive focal point for a team that already boasts superstars Joel Embiid and James Harden.
If general managers could have a do-over of the 2020 draft, Maxey would likely be a top-five pick.
“I don't really think about that yet,” Maxey told Yahoo Sports. “I just take everything day-by-day. I’m always watching all my draft peers to check up on them and make sure they're doing great. But I'm just glad to be here, honestly. I'm extremely excited when I got drafted and I really do appreciate the organization for giving me this opportunity.”