My ETB associate and I made a bet before the NBA season began that second-year Detroit Pistons forward Jason Maxiell would finish higher in Yahoo! fantasy rankings than the Boston Celtics’ Al Jefferson. Obviously, that bet hasn’t worked out for me, but hey, he still owes me 10 cents for Jim Leyland getting the nod over Ron Gardenhire for MLB Manager of the Year last season. So there.
Compared to Big Al, who should be considered a frontrunner for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award along with Leandro Barbosa, Maxiell is a bit player. But that’s not being fair to a guy who’s playing for a championship contender behind veterans like ‘Sheed Wallace, Chris Webber, and Antonio McDyess. Totally different situation, and though I’m not saying Mad Maxx would be posting similar numbers as Jefferson given the minutes (Al is much farther along in his game), he would undoubtedly be logging more than the 14 ticks he’s getting in Detroit if playing for most other teams.
If you’ve had the opportunity to see Maxiell in action, he likely left a lasting impression. He still has issues with maintaining consistency, but on most nights this guy brings instant energy off the bench as he blocks shots, runs the floor, steals rebounds, and throws down absolutely brutal dunks. Anyone see him stuff Carmelo Anthony’s dunk attempt on Monday night? Sick.
He’s stepped up his game enough to get the starting nod when Wallace’s odd injuries and suspensions keep him out of the lineup… and he’s performed relatively well in those stints. Just this past Sunday, Maxiell absolutely owned the Bucks, putting up 19 points on 9-13 shooting, with 15 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in 35 minutes of action. “Everyone’s taller than me, of course,” Maxiell said after the game. “But down low it was a good feeling to be down there, offensive rebounding and blocking shots and just playing the game.”
Long story short, this guy is a beast. He sleeps in a dark cave, is thrown buckets of meat and bones every few days, and works out by benchpressing elephant carcasses. “One of our guys was kidding that we kind of keep him over there, kind of chained up,” coach Flip Saunders recently said, “and when we let him loose we feel sorry for the other team because he really goes.” I’ve been preaching the Maxiell cause all year, and was glad to see this morning that I’m not the only one who’s noticed his development.
Paul Ladewski at The Courier News today characterizes Maxiell as “the latest Dumars discovery — as in late first-round steal:”
In his second season, Maxiell, chosen No. 26 overall by the Pistons in the 2005 NBA draft, has statistics very similar to those of Bulls first-rounder Tyrus Thomas, who was drafted No. 4 overall in 2006. “(Maxiell) is one of those guys that, no matter where he is on the floor when the shot goes up, he’s all over the glass,” Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. “We’ve got to have bodies on him and be aware of him. Not only is he an offensive rebound threat, but he can catch (the ball) and do things with it. He can score in the low post and drive with the ball. He’s a very good young player.”
Praise from Scott Skiles for a Detroit Piston? That ranks right up there with a Red Sox fan politely cheering for a Derek Jeter game-winning home run over the Sox in a playoff game. For now, Maxiell is mostly relegated to back-up duty, but the opportunity will be there for more minutes in the near future. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles it when that time comes.
A poor Metallica track runs over this clip, but this is otherwise a fantastic Maxiell highlight reel. Check out how many players he posterizes. It’s not even fair.