Jaden Springer has been back and forth between the Delaware Blue Coats and the Philadelphia Sixers over a dozen times this season.
Tuesday night’s contest, however, felt like the first time we’ve actually gotten to see what Springer is capable of on an NBA court. It was just against an undermanned Detroit Pistons team, but it was the best glimpse we’ve gotten all season nonetheless.
With the Sixers up comfortably, Springer was subbed in for his first chance at some real playing time. Like a man on an eight-minute-and-43-second mission, the guard had 10 points, two rebounds, and a steal.
Jaden Springer had himself a night. pic.twitter.com/UgQuJiumq0— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 11, 2023
“That’s who he is. That’s why we love him — practices, too,” head coach Doc Rivers explained. “That’s why we’ve taken him off the G League team a lot this year, just to have him in our practices. Especially in the middle of the year, you have practice and half the guys don’t want to practice. And Jaden shows up, and whoever he’s guarding has to practice because Jaden is. And it’s a good thing to have on your team.”
It seems that the players appreciate Springer’s enthusiasm as well, and they gave that same energy back to him. During his impressive performance, the Sixers bench were demonstratively excited for Springer, especially when he slammed a put-back dunk, and he took note of that.
“It was great to see the bench, to see those guys cheering me on and stuff like that,” Springer said. “That was big for me. I appreciate them for that”
If you weren’t convinced by the cheers coming from bench during the game, the leaders directly praised him postgame.
“Obviously we’ve got a lot of good players on the team and that’s on the staff to make those decisions, but he’s a guy, if you put him out there for Detroit, I think he would’ve gotten a lot of minutes,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s talented. Defensively, I think he has a lot of potential on that end. And then offensively, just being a slasher and just using his quickness, I think he can get a lot of minutes. But when you’re on a winning team and there’s a lot of guys that can play, it’s going to happen. But I think he’s pretty talented and he’s just got to get a chance.”
Rivers was impressed with the potential he saw in Springer’s play.
“He was great. Jaden, I’m telling you … we talk about De’Anthony [Melton] — and this is probably a hell of a statement — but I think he’s going to be an elite defender. I really do. He’s naturally physical. He has a chance to be a good player on the defensive end, and then the offensive part by his cutting, by his rebounding. He does things that he has a chance to be a good player.”
But are the constant trips up and down I-95 hindering that chance? This season, Springer has spent 22 games active on the Sixers bench, but did not play in 16 of those games. Before last night, Springer had just 15 minutes and 25 seconds total on the court across five appearances at the NBA level this season. The constant assignments and recalls have cut significantly into the time he can spend on the court in the G League, as well. Springer has played in just six of Delaware’s 18 games this season.
However, his stat lines are showing improvement already in that setting. Springer is averaging 17.7 points on 54.2 percent field goal shooting, 31.3 percent beyond the arc and 84 percent from the line with the Bluecoats as well as 2.2 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. All of these stats are improvements over his previous season in Delaware.
The Sixers don’t exactly have the best recent track record with developing young talent. One might argue “but they have Tyrese Maxey and look at all he’s done”. But there’s a difference between Maxey, who was ready for NBA minutes as a fresh rookie, and those who need to develop to try to break into the NBA via the G League.
Springer is the latter, and isn’t at the top level yet, but that’s alright. He is just 20 years old and showing improvements over time as noted. But if his readiness at the top level is the problem, the Sixers might consider allowing him to establish some consistency in his playing by letting him stay with the Blue Coats rather than going on the merry-go-round constantly. Even James Harden stressed the important of that stability postgame Tuesday night.
“I was telling Doc to put him in earlier,” Harden said. “He puts the work in, goes back and forth between here and the G League. He works extremely hard, so let it show off, and tonight he did a really good job on both ends of the ball. Young guys, the more they can get reps like that in game situations, the more comfortable they’ll be. He did really good tonight.”
Just about 12 hours after taking the court, the Sixers announced Springer’s reassignment to the Bluecoats on Wednesday morning. If the recent pattern is anything to go by, however, Springer will be back on the road to Philadelphia before long.
But he’s taking it in stride.
“It’s been all over the place. It’s been kind of like a rollercoaster,” Springer said with a smile. “Really, I’m just making the best of it, enjoying my time. I learned last year that everything’s unpredictable, so just stay ready and embrace every opportunity, no matter if it’s here or in the G League — wherever they want me at.
“So just make the best of it.”