Stevens: Jaden Springer brings ‘unique' defensive ability to Celtics

Stevens: Jaden Springer brings ‘unique' defensive ability to Celtics originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics made a deal right before Thursday's NBA trade deadline that raised a few eyebrows.

They acquired guard Jaden Springer from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for a second-round draft pick. We don't often see trades between rivals in the same conference, especially when both sides have championship aspirations.

But ultimately, you must do what's best for your roster, and it's clear that the Celtics see a lot of potential in Springer.

Springer was a first-round pick (28th overall) of the Sixers in 2021, and he appeared in 50 games for Philadelphia over the last two-plus seasons.

Similar to newly acquired forward Xavier Tillman, Springer has been on the radar of Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens for some time.

"We had followed Jaden for a while," Stevens told NBC Sports Boston's Chris Forsberg in an exclusive interview Friday. "Jaden went from a guy that I was interested in to a guy I was really interested in after our preseason game here when I saw him really defend -- like really, really defend.

"So I watched him a little bit closer. The game against us (in Philly) was an interesting game, I don't remember that quite as well maybe. But we have been paying attention as we've gone into this trade deadline as he's been playing more, and the matchups he's had."

There's a lot to like about Springer's defensive abilities. He's athletic, smart, and has good length and size (6-foot-4, 202 pounds) for a guard. In just the last few weeks, he has drawn the assignment of defending stars such as Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic.

His offensive game needs a lot of work, though. Springer has shot 41.6 percent from the field and just 23.8 percent on 3-point attempts in his brief career.

"My expectation is for Jaden to come in and keep improving," Stevens said. "He's got to improve his offensive game, he's got to improve his shooting. But he has ability defensively that is really unique. And as I said in my media scrum, he's younger than most of the guys that we're looking at in the draft. So I think that ultimately there's a lot there."

There's no question Springer has exciting talent. The key to his development will be getting as many reps as possible, whether that's in Boston or in the G-League up in Maine.