The Philadelphia 76ers‘ front office is probably knee-deep in player profiles right now as they look for the optimal way to fill out their roster.
They’ll examine the players available in the draft, the free agents set to hit the open market, and which players could realistically be secured via trade and hopefully execute a finely-tuned strategy to reshape the peripheral parts around Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, and company.
Will it work? Only time will tell, but don’t forget, the Sixers have a few players on their roster who could theoretically take a step forward and fill important roles this fall; players like Paul Reed, Isaiah Joe, and even Charles Bassey.
But what about Jaden Springer, the 2021 first-round pick who played fewer minutes in a Philadelphia 76ers uniform than two-way player Myles Powell during his rookie season. How does he fit into the plans moving forward? Well, I guess that depends on whether or not Doc Rivers actually inserts him into his rotation.
The Philadelphia 76ers need to actually play Jaden Springer.
When the Philadelphia 76ers drafted Jaden Springer with the 28th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, it left many a basketball fan in the City of Brotherly Love confused.
No, not because Springer was a bad player per se, he had an encouraging single season at the University of Tennessee and, at just 18 years old, presented quite a bit of upside over the course of his rookie-scale contract, but because he wasn’t really on the Sixers’ timeframe.
You see, heading into the 2021-22 NBA season, the Sixers were pretty much fully into win-now mode. Sure, they’d drafted another one-and-done performer, Tyrese Maxey, the previous year, but his selection sort of superseded any desire to add a plug-‘n-play upperclassman because few expected him to still be on the board at pick 21. Springer, by contrast, was pretty much expected to go at the end of the first round and had a much less developed game heading into the NBA.
Factor in the potential to trade the pick for a ready-made veteran contributor either straight up or alongside the Al Horford trade exception, and the thought of the Sixers actually rostering a player like Springer felt rather low, at least until it actually happened.
And then… nothing. Springer played just six minutes over two games during the regular season and 13 minutes over five games during the playoffs – largely in garbage time – and just like that, his rookie season was over. No real on-court development, very few highlights, and an incomplete grade on his end-of-season report card.
In 2022-23, that can’t happen again.
Now granted, there’s no way to guarantee that Springer will be a player for the Sixers. His defense, though good in Delaware, may not immediately translate to the NBA level, and his developing offensive game may not have quite developed enough for some fans’ tastes. The Sixers have no control over that. What they can control, however, is how much run Springer gets at the NBA level, and the number of chances he earns to figure it out on the court.
Considering the Sixers are virtual locks to make the playoffs if Joel Embiid plays 60-ish games, Doc Rivers, Daryl Morey, and company need to make sure Springer’s total minute count for the season starts with a six instead of a zero at the bare minimum.
Who knows, maybe Jaden Springer just won’t work out. Maybe he’ll fail to merit a spot in Doc Rivers’ rotation, and the Philadelphia 76ers will trade him to a team like the OKC Thunder for a more ready-made player like Kenrich Williams. If that happens, it happens; late first-round picks rarely become star players in the NBA, and when they do, it’s a special thing. But before giving up on Springer, the Sixers owe it to themselves – and to the player in general – to give him enough run at the NBA-level to make that decision one way or another.