Sixers' Daryl Morey expects Jaden Springer to take 'huge step' in second season

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Morey expects 19-year-old Springer to take 'huge step' in second season originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Sixers’ most recent draft pick on the roster is a teenager.

With the team trading away the 23rd selection Thursday night in a deal for De’Anthony Melton, that player doesn’t come from the 2022 draft class.

It’s Jaden Springer, who will turn 20 years old in September.

“We think he can take a big leap forward. … Defensively, he’s there,” Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said at his post-draft press conference. “He’s only 19, I think, if my memory serves. He’s defensively an NBA player — (already) there, in my opinion. And then the offense was really coming on strong. He had some injury issues in the G League last year — in and out with sort of a nagging thing that is over. A lot of guys take a huge step forward Year 2. I think we expect that with Jaden.”

Springer suffered a concussion in December and later was sidelined because of health and safety protocols. He also missed time with left knee soreness. Between the regular season and playoffs, Springer only got seven appearances with the Sixers, none in consequential moments.

His play in the G League indeed offered more reason for optimism. Across 19 regular-season games with the Delaware Blue Coats, Springer averaged 14.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals. On March 15, he racked up 30 points, nine rebounds, seven steals and six assists against the Cleveland Charge. 

Exploiting a mismatch against rookie big man Luka Garza, Springer also scored 30 points in the G League’s Eastern Conference semifinals. 

“The G League was great,” Springer said last month at his exit interview. “It definitely gave you an opportunity to play and compete, and just building your knowledge for the game. … I wasn’t getting much run up here, so being able to go there and just play and compete was great for me.”

The night he selected Springer 28th, Morey said the Sixers felt “good about his ability to be a 3-and-D player in this league.” For the time being, outside shooting isn’t one of Springer’s strengths.

Though the Tennessee product made 43.5 percent of his college threes, he hit just 24.1 percent of his long-range tries during the G League regular season. He was under 30 percent in nine G League Showcase games, too.

Springer sometimes dips the ball around knee level before putting up catch-and-shoot threes, which doesn’t tend to be ideal for players working alongside offensive stars. The adjustment to professional range wasn’t easy.

In the mid-range, Springer looks much more smooth and comfortable. He likes his spin move and employs it to shield off defenders and take advantage of his physical strength.

The Sixers will play in both the Utah and Las Vegas summer leagues. Morey said Springer will participate, and he’ll be among those interested to see the state of the Charlotte native’s game.

“Jaden’s young,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said at his end-of-season press conference. “Is he 19 yet? Nineteen years old. He was the youngest player in the NBA last year. He’s already got an NBA body. I think — and I’m probably outnumbered in this — I think he’s got a chance to be an elite defensive player. He’s got a lot of offensive things he has to work on.”

Depth chart projections aren’t especially useful ahead of free agency, but the 6-foot-4 Springer would still presumably be outside of the Sixers’ rotation, behind guards James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Melton, Shake Milton and Isaiah Joe.

If he takes the leap Morey forecasts, perhaps Springer won’t be in his 20s for long before that changes.