When the NBA draft rolls around on July 29, prospect Jaden Springer will still be just 18 years old, making him one of the youngest potential picks in the draft. But his age hasn’t discouraged him during his journey to the league.
“Well I’ve always been the youngest in my whole life everywhere I played, so I feel like that doesn’t really affect me too much,” Springer said after his workout with the Los Angeles Lakers this past weekend. “I feel like I got a good size, good strength so I could go out there and compete on the next level.”
The combo guard was one of several prospects who spent the weekend going through a pre-draft workout for one of the NBA’s most storied franchises.
Springer is projected to be drafted in the first round somewhere in the 20s, so he is a plausible option for the Lakers at No. 22 — their lone pick in this year’s draft.
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Springer is an 18-year-old guard who played one season at Tennessee prior to declaring for the NBA draft. He played in 25 games, starting 15 of them, and was eventually named to the 2021 SEC All-Freshman team.
In 25.9 minutes per game, he averaged 12.5 points — a team-high — on 46.7% from the field, 43.5% on 3-pointers and 81.0% at the free throw line. Springer, a combo guard, also posted averages of 2.9 assists and 3.5 rebounds in his lone season of college ball.
At the NBA Draft Combine, he was measured at 6-feet, 3-inches without shoes, 6-feet, 4.25-inches with shoes and 6-feet, 7.75 inches for his wingspan. He also weighed in at 202.0 pounds, so he should be on par with most other NBA point guards. At the two guard, however, Springer will be a little undersized.
At 18 years old, Springer’s potential is an appealing aspect of his game. While none of his averages at Tennessee were standouts, they showed how he could do a bit of everything. Springer, who turns 19 in September, is one of the youngest prospects in the draft, so he also has time to develop those skills further.
Jeremy Woo at Sports Illustrated described the combo guard as a player who doesn’t have “one elite skill, but a range of strengths that could feasibly coalesce into a starting-caliber guard.” Derek Murray at BasketballNews.com said Springer is “active in transition, explosive getting downhill and has shown flashes of being a capable facilitator.”
Shooting-wise, Springer has put up good percentages, going 46.7% from the field and 43.5% from behind the 3-point arc. However, the 3-point percentage comes from a small sample size — he attempted 46 3-pointers in his freshman season, making for an average of just 1.8 3-point field goal attempts per game.
Ricky O’Donnell of SB Nation noted the defensive impact that the 18-year-old guard’s can have:
Springer’s defense was immediately impactful with the Vols, as he swallowed up opposing guards at the point of attack and ripped ball handlers with hard digs as a help defender.
Should Springer translate those defensive skills to the league, he could find himself more easily earning minutes in the league despite his lack of experience.
Springer had a near 1-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio at Tennessee, averaging 2.4 turnovers to go along with his 2.9 assists. So he will need to work on refining his ball-handling skills.
Kevin O’Connor at The Ringer also pointed out Springer’s slow shot release and struggles with one-on-one play. Meanwhile, Woo brought up a need for Springer to improve his jump shot and “expand his offensive skill set.” Sam Vecenie at The Athletic noted Springer’s shooting as a concern as well, saying his “overall numbers look good, but the shooting splits are not quite as strong.”