The Philadelphia 76ers extended their lead over 20 points against the Washington Wizards on Sunday evening. Eventually, Wes Unseld Jr. waved the white flag, allowing the bench to empty. Doc Rivers would soon do the same thing, with the Sixers’ youngest player, Jaden Springer, entering the game with three minutes to go.
Garbage time basketball is often looked down upon, as players play without urgency in a decided game. Jaden Springer, however, used this rare playing time to showcase his defense and athleticism. He logged two steals, a rebound, an assist, in three minutes of play, while missing his only field goal attempt.
My personal favorite play was this Rondo-esqe ball fake, which led to an easy Dedmon basket at the rim.
Really hope the Sixers give him a shot next season, man. pic.twitter.com/zcB72yASRl— Harrison Grimm (@Harrison_Grimm) March 13, 2023
So, why am I starting off a post about garbage time in a March game? It was easily the most comfortable Springer has looked on a NBA court in his young career. Three minutes of garbage time doesn’t define much of anything, but a quick glance at his G League production shows that he’s made progression in the new year.
As usual, the Delaware Blue Coats have been humming along; currently sitting at second in the Eastern Conference. Make no mistake, their roster is deep with players like Mac McClung and Louis King producing. They’ve been excellent, but the Sixers’ 20-year old might be their most consistent player in the new year.
Since January 13, the Blue Coats have played 17 games. This sample size will apply to the following points below:
- Springer has scored in double digits in all but one game.
- Springer’s stolen the ball 41 times (2.4 steals per game), nearly matching his 42 turnovers.
- Springer’s averaged 20 points per game while shooting 57.7 percent from the field and 32.8 percent from three on 3.7 attempts per game.
Last season, Springer was one of the best perimeter defenders in the G League — and the same can be said more so this year. He’s managed to bump up his steal and block average without increasing his fouls per game by much — 0.1 fouls per 36 to be exact.
We all know Springer can defend, and what makes or breaks his case for playing time largely falls on the offense end. His regular season average clocks in at 33.7 percent from three. While this doesn’t seem great, it’s over 9 percentage points better than his 24.1 percent shooting last season. He’s taking more perimeter attempts than last year, and hitting a lot more of them.
For most fans, they won’t believe in Springer until we seem him produce at the NBA level — which might happen sooner than most think. Head Coach Doc Rivers raved about Springer’s defensive potential after the Wizards game on Sunday:
“Jaden’s on the floor for three minutes and it felt like he had five steals. He was unpick-able. Defensively, I’m telling you, he’s going to be an elite defensive player in our league.”
Springer’s teammates, De’Anthony Melton and Georges Niang, chimed in on his defensive ability (per Sixers Wire’s Ky Carlin):
“Man, he don’t play. I mean, he don’t play in terms of when he gets out there, he’s aggressive, gets to it,” Melton said. “I think his defensive instincts, I think they’re getting there, and I think everybody sees the attributes that he has. The way he gets low to the ground. He’s a strong base and everything like that. So he’s gonna be a really good defender in the next couple years.”
“He’s great,” Niang said. “When he’s up with us, he gives a ton of energy and he does a great job of being able to climb into other guys as a defender and get stops and he’s an elite athlete. He definitely is going to be an elite defender at some point in his career.”
The Sixers are in win-now mode, and it’s borderline impossible for him to get minutes this year. Don’t be surprised if we see more of him at the NBA level next season — especially depending on how free agency goes for the Sixers and their numerous free agents. Jaden Springer is a young 20 years old, and things seem to be trending in the right direction.