Buddy Hield’s point guard is still a charismatic 23-year-old All-Star named Tyrese.
With an eye toward making Hield’s whirlwind first days as a Sixer somewhat simple on the court, head coach Nick Nurse has leaned on actions he knows are in the sharpshooter’s wheelhouse. He’s called plenty of stack pick-and-rolls and encouraged his team to attack early in the shot clock.
The Sixers’ Tyrese — Maxey, the speedy, smiley Kentucky product — has been on the same wavelength.
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“He torched us a couple times in Indiana with those ghost screens,” Maxey said Saturday night following the Sixers’ victory against the Wizards. “So I’m like, ‘Let’s try that. It’s working for you.’”
In his first game alongside Hield, Maxey shook off a slow start (and played through an illness) to notch 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Hield had 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting and six assists.
“The sky’s the limit, honestly,” Maxey said. “I was just (talking to) Buddy. He was like, ‘Man, it’s crazy. You can get downhill on those ghost screens; they try not to leave me.’ … They’re never leaving his body. But it’s been great. More than just his basketball, his IQ and his energy have been great. Him and Cam Payne, they’ve been awesome. We appreciate them.”
Hield’s great grasp of ghost screens — coming up to the ball handler, then sprinting or sliding out in defense-puzzling ways — stems from his partnership with …
“The other Tyrese — Haliburton,” he said with a smile. “We were implementing that the whole four years I was playing with him, the ghost screen. Having elite speed like Tyrese Maxey, it brings a whole different dimension because now he’s one direction to the rim — one step and finishing. And he can shoot the ball at a high clip too, so it brings a lot of indecision for defenses.
“But there’s a lot of things we still can learn and get better at. It’s Day 1 with him and Day 2 with the team. It’s fun. The coaching staff has produced a solid and simple game plan, and we’ve just got to keep building and getting better.”
The 9-43 Wizards defense of course have many defensive weaknesses, but their struggles against Maxey-Hield ghost screen actions were especially pronounced Saturday.
It helps that Hield’s so comfortable setting drag/ghost screens a bit before the ball handler’s defender assumes he’ll need to be ready for a downhill burst.
He’s also looked at home in the Sixers’ pitch actions, recognizing the right moments to slip out and put a defense on its heels.
When the Sixers needed fruitful fourth-quarter possessions to hold off Washington, Nurse unsurprisingly relied on the Maxey-Hield duo in the middle of the floor.
“You probably saw a lot of that stuff late in the game with them at the top,” Nurse said. “Buddy, that’s a skill that he’s gotten really good at — and you saw all the combinations. … It’s just hard to guard when there’s speed on the ball and shooting off the ball.”
Again, any confusion that creates a Maxey driving lane is fantastic for the Sixers.
Hield scored a massive late-game layup as well. The Wizards opted to switch the action automatically, which put Tyus Jones on Maxey. Deni Avdija then shaded perhaps a tad too much toward Maxey, which Hield capitalized on with a strong slot drive and lefty finish.
Two games in, the Sixers have been pleased with a ton about Hield besides his three-point shooting.
“I think that he understands the game, right? He really understands it, so he’s going to make a lot of right plays,” Nurse said. “You hardly ever see him make a silly play. … He’s good at getting out of screens. He’s good when he catches it; he knows if he’s got the shot and if he doesn’t, he’s supposed to move it on.
“And then he kind of keeps things moving, I think. He gets off and runs to the other side of the floor. He’s creating action. Sometimes he’s not doing that much, but he’s creating space and actions for other guys.”