Aside from all the James Harden nonsense, Jaden Springer’s projection was probably the Philadelphia 76ers’ largest open question coming into the season. With most of the team’s regulars returning, no picks in the 2023 NBA draft, and no major moves in free agency, the 21-year-old Springer is one of the few wildcards on the roster. The range of outcomes is wide. You can envision him being the third guard and playing over 20 minutes per game in the event of a Harden absence, or you could see him possibly spending time once again on the Lorenzo Brown memorial shuttle along I-95 back and forth to Delaware.
However, in Sunday night’s preseason opener in Boston, Springer staked his initial claim to a spot in the Sixers’ rotation this year. In 23-plus minutes, the 2021 first-round pick tallied 14 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block, against two turnovers. Although it was preseason, this game wasn’t a case of Springer stat-padding against two-way and Exhibit 10 guys. He was producing against the Celtics’ main guys and doing it with authority.
Here’s Springer making a terrific off-ball cut and slamming home two points around a Jayson Tatum rim contest:
That play wasn’t anywhere close to Springer’s best one involving Tatum, though. This block by Jaden to stonewall a Tatum tomahawk dunk attempt...to me, is cinema:
Of course, the make-and-break aspect of Springer’s game has been his outside shooting. So it was super encouraging to see him go 2-of-2 from behind the arc in Beantown.
Following the game, the Inquirer’s Keith Pompey brought up Springer’s positive play and new head coach Nick Nurse readily acknowledged everything the young man brought to the table with his play:
“Yes, he did. He made a lot of plays. It is what you said. He really guarded hard, like those guys that couldn’t get around him. He got a lot of loose balls. He offensive rebounded. He stuck two threes. He hit that one at the top of the key after a loose ball there, but stuck a three, had a couple slot cuts for dunks. Yes, he did. He played very well. It’s good to see. Again, it’s a good opportunity to see what he can do.”
Nurse certainly didn’t seem to have Springer high on the depth chart in pen coming into this contest. In terms of perimeter(-ish) players, Pat Beverley, Danuel House Jr, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Danny Green all saw the court before Springer, who didn’t enter the game until midway through the second quarter. Some more performances like this one from Jaden, however, and Nurse will be forced to reassess.
Oh, and if you wanted a teammate’s evaluation on Springer’s night, here’s Mo Bamba:
“That boy was a dog tonight. That’s what we need from him. He was a straight dog. He’s just being modest about it.”
Springer has gone from the Doc Rivers automatic doghouse for young players to a straight dog in the preseason opener. We’ll see what Jaden has for an encore on Wednesday night in Philadelphia.