As currently constructed, the 76ers are expected to contend for the 2022 NBA title. As a result, the Sixers are not exactly a place where late first-round draft picks are needed to make impacts.
So what does Jaden Springer, the team’s first-round pick and the 28th pick overall in Thursday’s draft, think he can bring right away to carve out a role?
“Well, off rip, I feel I’ll be able to bring some toughness and physicality on both ends of the court,” the former Tennessee guard said during Saturday’s introductory Zoom press conference. “I also feel I can come in and be a secondary playmaker, whatever you need me to do. I can come in, I feel like I can shoot the ball.
“So whatever the team will need, I feel like I can come in and make that step.”
It’s obvious he isn’t in awe of the NBA despite being one of the youngest players in the draft. That has a lot to do with Springer, who doesn’t turn 19 until Sept. 25, being around high-level hoops his whole life.
His father, Gary, was an undersized McDonald’s All-American power forward at Harlem’s Benjamin Franklin High School in 1980. He went on to become an icon at Iona before being selected by the Sixers in the sixth round of the 1984 NBA draft. Gary never played for the Sixers because of a lingering knee injury.
Springer’s older brothers, Gary Jr. (Iona), and Jordan (Army), both played NCAA Divison I basketball. His cousin, D’Andre Bembry, a former St. Joseph’s University standout, plays for the Toronto Raptors.
Along the way, Springer made a name for himself.
As a high school junior, the now 6-foot-4, 203-pounder helped IMG Academy win the national championship. He ended his prep career as a McDonald’s All American and the 16th-ranked player in the Class of 2020, according to both Rivals.com and 247Sports.
So, it’s not surprising the Sixers selected the young talent with his pedigree. The hope is that he can become a special talent down the road.
The Memphis Grizzlies were prepared to select him 17th overall, according to a source, before moving up to the 10th spot thanks to a blockbluster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans.
In Memphis, Springer might have had a more immediate path to being in a team’s rotation. But the Sixers could be a solid situation based on familiarity.
Gary Springer and Sixers head coach Doc Rivers have a friendship that spans back to their days as two of the nation’s top high school players in the Class of 1980. Rivers, Springer, Derek Harper, and Sam Perkins were all notable players in both the 1980 McDonald’s All American Game and as first-team Parade All-Americans.
Like most kids playing basketball, especially ones from basketball families, Springer’s dream was always to play in the NBA.
“But I’ll say really towards my last couple of years of high school, I really started to feel, ‘I got a chance to really make it,’ and ‘I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there.’ ” he said.
In addition to be a solid shooter with a good touch around the basket, Springer excels as an on-the-ball defender. But he knows there will be a decent-sized learning curve from playing just one season at Tennessee to the NBA.
“There’s going to be a lot of learning and just trying to soak up the information you can, especially coming into the league,” Springer said.
Springer is a student of the game. He watches a lot of NBA basketball, paying a lot of attention to his position.
“I watch all of the guards, Chris Paul, Bradley Beal,” he said. “I’ve been watching a lot of Jrue Holiday in the Finals.
“So I just try to take stuff from all of the players in the league.”
While he’s trying to improve his entire game, he’s been putting extra emphasis on his shooting, ball handling, explosiveness, and weight training in preparation for the next level.
Springer and second-round pick Charles Bassey said Sixers veteran Tobias Harris reached out to them after they were drafted.