Why do we love sports? That’s a big question that I won’t attempt to fully answer here but I think a few things on the list would be the following:
- We love the opportunity to debate about players/coaches/general managers/teams and how good they are and how good they can be.
- We love to get a promising young player on one of our teams and ponder the glories he may bring to us when he reaches his prime.
- We love to root for the ones that are not just good players but “good guys.”
Looking at that list, it’s clear that we have a pretty good thing going right now in Philly sports with two players in particular: Jalen Hurts and Tyrese Maxey. In the midst of a largely forgettable, rebuilding Eagles season and a Sixers season marred by Ben Simmons and COVID, we have two young guys with personalities we love and whos’ future as players is extremely ripe for debate.
As we sit here, in November of 2021, the range of outcomes for the careers of Hurts and Maxey are immense. Are they backups or key members of championship teams? Both came into their respective leagues with moderate expectations. The percentage of quarterbacks drafted after the 1st round and the percentage of NBA players drafted outside the lottery who become stars are very low. Both have clear weaknesses in their game. Some will always be there (Hurts’ arm strength, Maxey’s size), while others could potentially develop (Hurts’ accuracy and pocket presence, Maxey’s shooting and playmaking). Both have some clearly elite skills that are driving the excitement and the debate.
What’s a little unusual is that both of these guys, even though they are second-year players who’ve shown great potential, could pretty easily be gone from Philly by this time next year. The Eagles and Sixers have to help them grow and improve, but they also have to evaluate them meticulously and weigh the opportunity cost of keeping them around. The Sixers are about as publicly “open for trade business” as you will ever see a team be, with Simmons needing to be moved. Which begs the question: do we package Maxey with him to get the return we want? What targeted players are we willing to include Maxey for and which ones are we not?
For the Eagles, it’s a little different because A) there’s no Ben Simmons-like situation elsewhere on the roster (thank God) and B) the unique nature of the quarterback position. For the Sixers, if Maxey is “pretty good” that’s fine. He’ll be one useful player in the team as they move forward. But “pretty good” probably isn’t good enough for Hurts. If they think his ceiling is “pretty good”, then they should (and will) look for alternatives to take his place in the near future.
In the meantime, us fans will go back and forth and up and down with our own evaluations of the players. Hurts has a bad game one week and it’s “well, guess we need a quarterback.” Maxey goes for 30 the next night and it’s “we can’t trade him!” One day Hurts is dropping 30-yard bombs into a bucket for a score and the next he’s missing easy crossing routes. One week Maxey looks like the running mate Jo needs and the next he’s shooting 1-15 from 3.
It all sounds kind of stressful and annoying, and sometimes it will be. Especially because these are such likeable guys, we all hope this ends with Jalen Hurts hoisting a Lombardi Trophy and Tyrese Maxey as starting point guard on the first Sixers championship team in a generation. But no matter how it plays out for them in the long-term, they’re offering reasons for hope, and debate, as we slog through some otherwise pretty dark days in Philly sports.