This evening, the Philadelphia 76ers announced that they have exercised the fourth-year team contract option for Tyrese Maxey and the third-year team contract option for Jaden Springer. Maxey will make $4.34 million next season, while Springer will be on the books for $2.23 million.
The Maxey option was about as no-doubt-about-it as it gets in this business. The 21st overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft has exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations in his two-plus years as a professional. After a fairly typical rookie season with flashes of promise, Maxey exploded onto the scene in Year 2, averaging 17.5 points and 4.3 assists per game. The biggest leap was his three-point shooting, once viewed as the primary area of weakness that caused him to slide in the draft. After shooting 30.1 percent in limited opportunities as a rookie, Tyrese hit 42.7 percent of his three-pointers on 4.1 attempts per game a season ago.
This year, Maxey has looked to take yet another step forward. He’s averaging 22.6 points per game, including a career-high 44 points in Friday night’s win over Toronto. He’s shooting 46.8 percent from three on 6.7 attempts per game, and regularly hoisting treys from well beyond the three-point line. His trajectory looks to be with him squarely in the All-Star conversation, and if he doesn’t make it, it will probably only be because the guard position is so loaded in the Eastern Conference this season. Given his on-court production and his infectious personality and work ethic that have won over the hearts and minds of those both inside and outside the Sixers organization, a max contract extension at the first available opportunity seems like a foregone conclusion.
Jaden Springer is a different situation, however. The 28th overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft has only played a total of 10 NBA regular season minutes thus far. His defensive skill set definitely looks like it will play at the NBA level, but we have yet to see anything to indicate he’ll be a useful cog on the offensive end against NBA-caliber competition. During the training camp roster crunch that ultimately led to the releases of Charles Bassey and Isaiah Joe, it wasn’t crazy to consider that maybe Springer could have been on the chopping block.
Yet, he only turned 20 years old last month, so it certainly makes sense to give him another year in the G League to develop and retain his contract for at least one more season. If Springer still hasn’t made significant offensive strides by next summer, the fourth-year team option that jumps up to over $4 million could be an entirely different conversation.
Getting back to Maxey, having a guy playing this good so soon while still on a cheap rookie contract is a major reason the Sixers were able to cobble together what they did with the rest of the roster while remaining in the contender ring (James Harden taking his pay cut in exchange for a sweetheart Mitchell & Ness ownership stake — just kidding, Adam Silver — was certainly another). With his fourth-year option, they’ll have one more crack at it next season under these circumstances before having to pay up for Tyrese and force major decisions elsewhere (probably letting Tobias Harris walk in free agency, maybe closing the door on the Harden in Philly era). If we’re lucky, we’ll have Tyrese Maxey in our lives for a long time, but especially enjoy having him on this relatively cheap contract (and the benefits that brings elsewhere to the roster) while you can.