Philadelphia 76ers: Jaden Springer is Philly’s latest defensive project

(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

In 2018, the Philadelphia 76ers lost to the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs.

While no one really expected the Sixers to even make the playoffs, let alone past the first round, when the season opened up, as “The Process” was still fresh in the minds of many around these parts, watching Philly’s finest only secure a single win versus the pre-Kyrie Irving Celtics identified a pretty pressing need that has lingered to this very day: Wing defense.

Despite using subsequent first-round picks on defensive specialists in Matisse Thybulle and Tyrese Maxey, the Sixers still found themselves in an unadvantageous position in the second round of the 2021 NBA playoffs, as they weren’t quite able to slow down the perimeter firepower of McMillan’s Atlanta Hawks once Danny Green was lost for the series.

So naturally, after failing to find a trade worthy of the 28th overall pick – at least not yet – the Sixers opted to yet again return to the well of collegiate ball stoppers and pick the best guy left on the board capable of giving opposing ball handlers fits: Tennessee guard Jaden Springer.

The Philadelphia 76ers found a nice bridge between Maxey and Thybulle.

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As is so often the case in this day and age, Jaden Springer is a one-and-done.

The 13th overall player in the RSCI Top 100, Springer took his colligate talents to the University of Tennessee, where he started 15 of the 25 games he appeared in. Though Springer finished first on the Vols in points (12.5), field goal attempts (9.1), and 3 point shooting percentage (43.5) – albeit on only 1.8 attempts per game – where the North Carolina native really earned his bones was on the defensive end of the court.

Measuring in at 6-foot-4, 204 pounds with a 6′-7.5″ wingspan and a lightning-fast first step, Springer was among the best on-ball defenders the SEC had to offer last season. He locked onto would-be drivers, switched well from one guard spot to the other, and always kept his eye on the ball for an easy steal opportunity, as evidenced by his 1.2 robberies-per-game.

Do you like Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle? Well then, you’re going to love Springer, as his game fits pretty darn well between the duo and could help to split the difference between them as a complementary ball-handler/defender on the second unit.

Heck, if Springer can keep his 3 point shooting percentage above 40 percent on five attempts a game, we may be looking at the perfect backcourt partner for Ben Simmons moving forward… or whoever is filling that role with the team moving forward.

But, you may ask, why didn’t the Sixers trade the pick, a move that many assumed would happen as Daryl Morey looks to further fortify his roster with proven veteran starters?

Honestly, your guess is as good as mine.

Who knows, maybe the Sixers simply couldn’t find a quality player who fit the bill and was worthy of the 28th overall pick? Or maybe they really, really liked Springer and jumped at the opportunity to fold him into the fray as a long-term piece?

Who knows, maybe Springer could still be traded in one package or another before actually taking the court for the Sixers this summer? As Mikal Bridges will tell you, no draftee is ever really safe until they actually play a game with the team, and even then, Landry Shamet was traded by the Sixers in a bigger package for Tobias Harris midway through a really good rookie season.

Needless to say, Springer’s immediate future is going to be very interesting.

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With two more picks left to make, Daryl Morey surely isn’t done making moves to try to improve their roster moving forward. Is Jaden Springer a part of that plan? Only time will tell, but for now, he’s officially a Philadelphia 76ers draftee, and nothing can take that away.