Following a nightmarish offseason for the Philadelphia 76ers, there aren’t a ton of positive storylines heading into the 2023-24 season. The list likely includes Joel Embiid still being in his MVP-caliber prime, new head coach Nick Nurse scheming up some fun stuff, Tyrese Maxey making another leap into a bona fide All-Star, and Paul Reed playing minutes at the four and shooting threes. It’s tough to carve out digital real estate amidst the James Harden drama, after all.
Probably a tier below those above items in terms of optimistic Sixers developments lies Jaden Springer. We’ve already been talking about Springer for a couple years after he was selected 28th overall in the 2021 NBA Draft, but he only turned 21 years old a couple weeks ago. Now freed from the shackles of ‘Doc Rivers hates young players’ jail, we would anticipate Springer getting his first crack at actual rotation minutes at some point this season. At the guard position, the Sixers have Maxey, a ‘maybe willing to participate’ James Harden, De’Anthony Melton, and 35-year-old Patrick Beverley. If Harden dips out to hit the club full-time, that group suffers an injury, or Beverley succumbs more fully to Father Time, Springer is going to fill a serious role.
During Monday’s team Media Day, Springer was asked about his approach to this season and the potential opportunity ahead:
“Yeah, I definitely feel like it could be a big season coming up. We’ve been working every day. I’ve been with the staff all day, every day, so I’m pretty confident with where things are going. Getting ready for training camp, I’ve just got to go out there, play hard and show what I can show.”
Springer also discussed playing for Nurse and where he’s looking to make progress with his game:
“I’m looking forward to showcasing all the work we’ve been putting in. Nick Nurse, the staff, they’ve been with us every single day. So being able to get after it with those guys, learn, and just keep getting better day in and day out, that’s what I’m excited to show.”
The third-year guard also spoke to Nurse coaching a couple of Summer League games a few months back:
“That was a great experience. I don’t know if that’s too common, for a head coach to be that active. From Day 1, just starting in practice, he was involved. He coached us up, correcting us, and it stayed like that throughout the whole summer league, man. That was big. He really gained a lot of respect from me from the jump just for doing that.”
On the flip side, Nurse praised Springer’s effort and desire to improve in a training camp piece from Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:
“I’m doing a lot of teaching with those guys. I stop practice and make sure that I’m getting some points across. Jaden, he’s trying to do everything right. He’s playing hard, he’s physical, he’s into the ball. From the start of practice, every early drill — even some of it that’s not at game speed yet — he’s always going at game speed.
But there are some things that I’m trying to make sure he understands to use those abilities — just some of his physicality. Just because he’s a guard doesn’t mean he can’t be a good basket protector. … Today we were working on him going over there, taking charges, or going up vertical and using the gifts he has to do some of that stuff. … He’s done very well and he’s doing what he can do. He gets to the front of the rim. He’s limiting his mistakes. I think that’s what he needs to do. Play hard and limit mistakes.”
Other Sixers have seen the work Springer has been putting in as well. On Monday, De’Anthony Melton was asked about what he’s seen from his young teammate:
“It’s been real good. Jaden’s development is improved. We all know him as a pesky (on-ball) defender, but I think he’s gotten even stronger on defense. His shooting is coming along, too — specifically his three-point shooting and having the confidence just to pull the trigger. I think all that type of stuff is coming along and is going to help this team.”
While that three-point shot Melton mentions remains the swing skill for Springer, the rest of his game looks NBA-ready. If nothing else, the Sixers losing some rotation members over the offseason should afford Springer some runway at the NBA level. We’ll see if he’s ready to take off.