There was talk leading up to the 2021 NBA Draft that the Philadelphia 76ers were considering trading their first-round pick for something that could help them more immediately. As it stands, though, the Sixers look to have hung onto the selection, bolstering their backcourt in the process.
With the 28th overall pick in the draft, the Sixers selected Tennessee combo guard Jaden Springer. The 18-year-old was one of the youngest players in the draft, having played just one season in Knoxville.
In 25 games with the Volunteers in 2020-21 (15 starts), the 6-foot-4 Springer averaged 12.5 points, 3.5 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per contest. He also connected on 43.5% of his triples, but attempted only 1.8 per game. He was an 81.0% free-throw shooter.
His father, Gary Springer, was a sixth-round pick of the Sixers back in 1984 after starring at Iona. However, he never suited up for Philly — or played professionally at all — due to a knee injury.
From Five-Star Recruit to Fringe First-Rounder
After transferring from Rocky Hill High School in his home state of North Carolina, Springer went on to star at IMG Academy, where he cemented himself as a five-star recruit. From there, he racked up a slew of D1 offers, ultimately choosing the Vols over Memphis, Michigan, Wake Forest, Maryland, N.C. State and others.
At Tennessee, he combined with fellow freshman star Keon Johnson — who was picked 21st overall by the New York Knicks, then shipped to the L.A. Clippers — to lead his team to an 18-9 record and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
His best game with the Vols came in February when he put up 30 points, four rebounds and three steals in a late-season win over the Georgia Bulldogs.
Although he weighed in at a solid 202 pounds at the draft combine, his 8-foot-3 standing reach and 6-foot-7.75 wingspan weren’t exactly jaw-droppers for a wing player. As a point guard, he’ll be bigger and longer than most. At the two spot, however, his measurements are middle of the road.
There are also questions about his explosiveness offensively and his athleticism, which is a big part of the reason he fell so far. That said, he has defensive chops and lockdown potential that should fit in nicely in Philly.
“Understanding off-the-ball defense, scouting reports, schemes,” Vols associate head coach Michael Schwartz said of Springer as a defender, via The Athletic. “What we’re trying to do, personnel-wise and scouting-wise. The mindset, the mentality, the tenacity, when you don’t have to harp on those things for a player who is that talented offensively, that goes a long way.”
Marcus Smart has been used as a player comparison for Springer.
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No Ben Simmons Trade (Yet)
Ben Simmons may be on the trading block — and draft night is one of the biggest deal-making occasions on the league calendar — but, for now, he remains a Sixer. And considering the Sixers’ asking price, that should come as no surprise.
Earlier on Thursday, The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Keith Pompey reported that the Golden State Warriors rejected an offer of Simmons for Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman, picks Nos. 7 and 14, as well as two future first-round selections. His report comes in the wake of others indicating that Philly was rebuffed by the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors for similarly lopsided offers.
Clearly, Sixers president Daryl Morey is not going to deal Simmons for just anybody — and why would he? Warts and all, Simmons is a superstar in the league; a walking triple-double who still has growing left to do. If Morey is going to move the former No. 1 overall pick, he must net a return that will help his team in its title pursuits.
As time progresses, the Sixers may loosen up their stance on what is good enough to pull the trigger on a deal. However, their hands clearly won’t be forced in the situation.
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