Sixers

3 observations after Springer leads Sixers to win in summer league finale

Sixers

The Sixers wrapped up their summer league campaign Tuesday afternoon on a winning note, thanks in large part to an 18-year-old.

They beat the Jazz, 103-98, to finish 3-2. Rookie Jaden Springer led the Sixers with 21 points.

Here are three observations on the Sixers’ final game in Las Vegas: 

What we saw from Springer in summer league 

Springer made two mid-range jumpers in the first quarter. He looked more confident than in prior games with the ball in his hands, including on a baseline drive and drop-off dish to Paul Reed.

The shift to NBA three-point range hasn’t been an easy one for Springer. He air-balled a second-quarter attempt from the top of the key. In general, it seems his mechanics are rather stiff and he doesn’t fluidly transfer his weight through the shot.

Springer did shoot well from three-point territory in college on a low volume, and he made 81 percent of his free throws at Tennessee. Those numbers are perhaps a generous reflection of his shooting ability, but they indicate he’s far from a lost cause. Like many aspects of the professional game, a learning curve is to be expected. Springer will need to let it fly when a defender goes under a screen and he’s open, which he did not always do during summer league. 

One interesting area to watch in Springer’s development will be his sense for when to shield off defenders and when to relinquish the ball. No 3-and-D prospect wants to be known for disrupting the flow of possessions, but Springer is good at finding his initial drive cut off, then creating another path with his body. 

 

Over-dribbling and turnovers tend to be frowned upon for young players, though, so Springer will eventually need to figure out what works for him as a ball handler in an NBA setting. It would be great if he could tighten his handle and expand his package of moves, too. 

Defensively, there’s a lot to like about Springer. His balance, strength, effort and instincts are all foundational positives. 

“He was great," Sixers assistant and summer league head coach Brian Adams said postgame via Zoom. “He just got better with every game. His ability to get downhill, get in the paint and make strong, two-foot moves is impressive. Defensively, he’s at a high NBA level already. So seeing that on the offensive end — getting downhill, attacking in pick-and-rolls, getting to the paint, making plays — that was awesome.”

Shortened roster for Sixers 

Sixers two-way player Rayjon Tucker sat out Tuesday’s game. Though Tucker is healthy, the Sixers wanted to give opportunities to others on the roster. One of those players was Aaron Henry (17 points on 7-for-10 shooting), who showed some variety as a scorer, converting three-pointers, pull-up jumpers and a few shots around the rim. 

Lamar Peters was sidelined due to health and safety protocols. The Sixers were also without Isaiah Joe (mild left MCL sprain) and Filip Petrušev, who returned to Europe to prepare for his upcoming season with Anadolu Efes. 

Creighton product Mitch Ballock started and scored eight points on 3-for-8 shooting. Charles Matthews and Devonte Green, the younger brother of Sixers wing Danny Green, also received rotation minutes. Matthews added 14 points and four rebounds.

NBA teams can have up to 20 players on their roster in the offseason, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Sixers sign a player or two from their summer league team to Exhibit 10 contracts ahead of training camp. Nineteen-year-old point guard Daishen Nix looks like he should be a candidate for such a deal if no NBA team offers him a two-way contract. 

No 20-20 encore for Reed 

Reed could not quite meet the impossibly high bar he set against the Timberwolves. After that 27-point, 20-rebound night, Reed posted 17 points and 10 rebounds. 

It was still a very productive summer league overall for Reed. Along with the highlight plays and outlier statistics, it’s been noticeable since last season how much Reed’s teammates have enjoyed playing alongside him. He’s a fun-loving, high-effort personality, and those sorts of players are nice to have on your side. 

Reed is always a good bet to play with passion.

“My biggest takeaway (from summer league) was staying composed through everything," he said. “Everybody’s out there trying to prove themselves and get their buckets. Sometimes it can get kind of frustrating. But stay composed, keep playing hard and find different ways to get my buckets." 

 

Reed drained an open catch-and-shoot three from the right wing in the third quarter and later missed an attempt from the opposite wing. Outside shooting will be key for Reed if he’s going to push for small-ball five minutes behind Joel Embiid.