A deeper look at the athletic two-guard from Tennessee
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be profiling every player currently on the Sixers’ roster ahead of training camp, which begins on Sept. 28. On Sunday we took a look at the two-way players in Grant Riller and Aaron Henry. Check that out if you missed it over the holiday weekend.
Last season only the Suns and the Jazz had better regular-season records. The Sixers were the top seed in the Eastern Conference so they wound up with the 28th overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft. With it, they selected Tennessee’s defensive stalwart and North Carolina native Jaden Springer. Springer signed his rookie-scale deal back in early August making him a full-time member of the squad.
Per 40 minutes in one season with the Volunteers, Springer averaged 19.3 points per game, 1.9 steals, 0.7 blocks, 5.4 boards, 4.5 dimes, 43.5 percent from 3, and 81 percent from the free-throw line. He’s a better passer than many give him credit for. And despite not possessing impressive length, his 1.9 steals per 40 should raise eyebrows and bode well for his future. A little film review and it becomes clear he’s not a player who will be easily bullied. He just doesn’t lose his balance and recovers very quickly, like a press-corner in football parlance.
He is a full-time member of the club, but it wouldn’t be a shock if Springer, a shooting guard at 6’4, and a sturdy 204 lbs, did log some games with the Blue Coats this year. Recall Zhaire Smith, selected 16th overall in 2018 logged 11 G league games as a way to get some reps at times he wasn’t a core member of the rotation. The Sixers were in championship or bust mode then and didn’t have many developmental minutes to go around. That hasn’t changed much a couple of years later.
Daryl Morey, per Ky Carlin SixersWire:
“We’re really excited about Jaden and in a position where you can see a path to him, potentially getting on the floor,” he finished. “Usually it takes more than a year, but you never know.”
Morey is upfront here, suggesting Jaden might crack the rotation this season, but it usually takes “more than a year.” We won’t get our hopes up too much.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Might Springer be traded in a package with Ben Simmons? One would think that the idea of acquiring Damian Lillard was top of mind for the Sixers Brass heading into that draft and still is today. If the Sixers had their way, they would trade Simmons for Lillard. And if that necessitated dealing Springer too, so be it… as much as they love him as a prospect rest assured they’d drive him to the airport if it meant landing Dame.
Springer’s youth lends credence to the idea he offers upside. A player who will be able to say he’s in his early 20’s even five years from today offers a tantalizing trajectory.
Jaden Springer’s defense on full display on this possession. Just tremendous 1-on-1 defense. pic.twitter.com/YsmPbgOpbo
— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) August 9, 2021
Precious few guards are capable of making the type of defensive impact he made at such a young age in college. And he also shot over 43 percent from downtown. That can’t be the most difficult sell if you’re deep in negotiations with a rebuilding franchise. Every team needs 3-and-D wings. An unselfish player who loves defense is often a coach’s dream.
If Ben Simmons remains with the Sixers and plays (a very big if) that likely blocks many of Springer’s minutes. The team would need more reliable shooters to play around Simmons, and despite Springer’s efficiency from beyond the arc, he often passed up open 3s to take contested 2s. He may not be quite ready for a full-time spot-up shooting role.
If Ben Simmons is here and holds out for a while, then there are certainly more minutes to go around. In that scenario I’d expect to see him get consistent burn. Not only would the team need his defense, they’d also be wise to showcase his potential a bit as they negotiate.
Finally, a scenario where Simmons is traded and Springer stays represents another path where he gets at least limited opportunity; but it would probably depend on who the team landed in return. Danny Green recently discussed a hypothetical were Simmons to be traded and how that would impact the defense.
Doc Rivers is a bit old-school in that he doesn’t love to rely heavily on his youngest players, but he did turn to Tyrese Maxey last year to fill the glaring ball-handling void. If Kevin Huerter were bullying Seth Curry again, that’s perhaps where Springer’s name might get called up in a big moment to fill a defensive void.
According to Derek Boder, The Athletic:
“Let’s start off with the positive, and that’s Springer’s perimeter defense. If the Sixers do wind up trading Ben Simmons this summer, Springer likely would step in and be the team’s best point-of-attack defender. That’s not meant as a knock on Matisse Thybulle, who would still be the best overall perimeter defender, but in terms of getting in a ballhandler’s face and having the foot speed to stick with the quick, athletic guards who have given the Sixers problems over the years, Springer excels at that. Watching him get after it defensively will make it really easy to see why the Sixers had an interest in him with the 28th pick in the draft.”
Can you even imagine that this dude could come in cold without ever having played in the league and be a better day one point-of-attack defender than Matisse Thybulle? Don’t get our hopes up please Mr. Bodner, formerly of DraftExpress.
Offensively, Springer doesn’t project to make a big impact this season. I think if he were to see consistent minutes, it would be as a half-court spot-up shooter and cutter.
I think his athleticism would allow him to get out in transition for some easy buckets, especially if he were contributing to getting stops. His jumper may need some refining. I took an in depth look at that earlier this summer. But that’s the swing skill for him. There exists a world where Springer is totally fine from downtown when wide open. In that case, coach Rivers can use him right away. But if he struggles to knock down wide-open shots, I doubt they’d risk playing him much.
Things would need to break right for Springer to get opportunities early on. But if he’s knocking down his open shots, the team is going to have trouble keeping him on the bench.