With NBA training camp and the regular season right around the corner, teams are forced to make some tough decisions. While the blockbuster trades and the signings of well-known free agents usually get the majority of the attention, smaller decisions are made behind the scenes that GMs also struggle with. The 76ers are currently facing this issue of what to do with former first-round pick Jaden Springer.
After selecting the Tennessee product with their 28th overall pick in the 2021 draft, the Sixers have seen little performance from Springer. He will now enter the final season of his rookie deal with a team option on the table for next season. The Sixers have just over a month to decide whether to exercise that option and keep him on the team for the 2023-24 season. Given the Sixers’ win-now focus, limited roster slots, and Springer’s lack of production to date; This has become a more difficult decision than is usually the case.
When the Sixers drafted Jaden Springer, they knew he was going to be a project. The then 18-year-old was the fourth youngest player in the draft and clearly had a few years of development before he would be NBA-ready.
Daryl Morey has stuck firmly to the game plan of taking the player with the best projections onto the board when it comes time to design later and figure out how it fits. In some cases, like Tyrese Maxey, it worked perfectly. However, Springer struggles to find his step.
In his previous two seasons in the NBA, Springer has only spent six total minutes with the Sixers. He has spent most of his time with the Delaware Blue Coats where he has had mixed results. Last season in the G-League regular season, he averaged 14.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game while shooting just 24.1% on three-pointers. There are positive flashes from the young guard, but the direction of his growth has been somewhat scattered.
The option of keeping the team’s first-round pick isn’t usually discussed much. Rookie contracts are incredibly valuable in the NBA because of the low cap they carry. However, with the Sixers focused on fighting now, they are in a unique situation. The squad currently consists of 17 players and will have to be reduced to 15 before the start of the season. If you were to rate each player’s potential to impact the roster next season, Springer could very well find themselves at the bottom of the list. It’s difficult to fully project the roster for next offseason, but the goals of the fight will most certainly remain the same.
That’s not to say there’s no hope for his NBA future. The 19-year-old is far too young to give up and his game still has redeeming qualities. Jaden Springer is already a top-flight defenseman who could produce at the NBA level. He has a strong frame and uses it to attack the basket well on offense. His ability to complete through contact and reach the free throw line is advanced for his age.
However, the slow growth of his overall development was somewhat concerning. Springer has no clear positioning and lack of confidence in his jump shot is a red flag. This is especially true considering he shot 43.5% on three-point attempts in his only year in college. His grip looks too loose to serve as a primary ball handler and his feel for the game is still a work in progress.
In a different situation, with less competitive pressure now, Springer might have a clearer development path where he’s able to process the growing pains in his game. However, his timeline and the Sixers do not agree in this regard. What the Sixers decide to do with Jaden Springer long-term has yet to be determined, but the Oct. 31 deadline for his 2023-24 option is one they will have to make a decision on in the near future.