Sixers Coach Doc Rivers Sounds Off on Ex-Tennessee Top Pick

Jaden Springer

Getty Sixers guard Jaden Springer will look to improve offensively after the first-rounder spent his 2021 rookie year mostly in the G League.

Jaden Springer appeared in more playoff games than regular-season ones during his rookie year. Sure, a lot of those postseason minutes came in garbage time, including a four-point performance in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals versus Toronto. Blame it on circumstance.

But the 6-foot-3 shooting guard made the most of every single opportunity. Springer, of course, spent the majority of the 2021-22 campaign down in the G League playing for the Delaware Blue Coats. He averaged 14.9 points, 2.8 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game in 19 contests.

The first-round pick out of Tennessee was proud to be part of a Blue Coats’ squad that won the Eastern Conference title before falling just short of capturing the G League championship. Springer learned a lot, much more than he would have absorbed sitting on the Sixers’ bench and not playing.

“All about reps, just keep playing basketball,” Springer said. “Probably some things I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to do being here [with the Sixers] all season, just going there and working on my game and developing, that was the probably the biggest things.

“It was good for me. I try and take advantage of everything, just trying to stay positive and that’s really what I did. I went there and we had a great season so I feel like it paid off for me.”

Springer wouldn’t divulge what specifically he plans to work on this summer, but logic points to his offensive game. He shot just 46.4% from the field and 24.1% from the three-point line. The chance to improve in those areas starts on July 7 when players ship out to the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

“My goal is to just stay in the lab,” Springer said. “We got Summer League coming up so getting ready for that and then just staying focused, keep working on my game, that’s big for me.”

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Doc Rivers Sees ‘Elite Defensive Player’

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers liked what he saw out of Springer in Year 1. Like everyone else, he wants the hard-working kid from North Carolina to work on his jumper this summer.

“Jaden’s young, 19 years old. He was the youngest player in the NBA last year and he’s already got an NBA body,” Rivers said of Springer. “I think — and I’m probably outnumbered in this — but I think he has a chance to be an elite defensive player. He has a lot of offensive things he has to work on.”

Maybe the young guard can get in the gym with 2020 second-rounder Isaiah Joe and the two can swap secrets. Joe needs to get better defensively; Springer needs to improve offensively.

“Isaiah Joe, like I look at him and I look at that shot and there are so many other things that he has to work on,” Rivers said, “and improve to get on the floor but this summer’s important for him.”

Stoked About Tyrese Maxey’s Development

One guy who blew expectations out of the water was Tyrese Maxey. The second-year guard started the year as a plug-in point guard as the team waited for Ben Simmons to show up. After the Sixers traded Simmons, they moved Maxey off the ball and put him in the backcourt with James Harden.

What did he do? Maxey averaged 17.5 points per game while shooting 42.7% from the three-point line. And he hit another level in the playoffs, including a 34-point outburst in Game 2 versus Miami.

“Tyrese, in my opinion, has a chance to be a special kid,” Rivers said. “It’s always two ways: I love players who love the game and who are committed to just winning, you know what’s funny, he works to be a better player but what Tyrese really wants is at the end of the day is to win, and you have an emotional attachment to players like that.”

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