Sixers Summer League observations: Springer, UDFAs, and more

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Philadelphia 76ers head coach Nick Nurse takes questions from the media during a press conference at the NBA basketball team’s facility, Thursday, June 1, 2023, in Camden, N.J. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

The Summer Sixers have officially taken the hardwood as the Philadelphia 76ers are in Utah for the Salt Lake City Summer League. As the team began the first of two Summer League series, eyes were on former first-rounder Jaden Springer and undrafted free agents Terquavion Smith and Ricky Council IV.

While the end result was a Sixers loss by a score of 94-92, the Summer League isn’t measured in wins and losses but in how players show out and develop. Here are some observations from Game 1 of the Salt Lake City Summer League.

Jaden Springer

What I saw: Defensive bloodhound, lack of half-court growth, solid transition play

Back in 2019, Jaden Springer was selected with the 28th overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers. Since that moment, the scouting report has been potential, potential, potential. Now entering his third season, the expectation is to see some of that potential turn into production.

If you’re using this game as a frame of reference, your excitement level will drastically vary depending on which quarter you watched. While his defense was impressive throughout and provided several highlights, Springer showed that his offensive game continues to lag behind. The one noticeable area of success was in transition, and with the potential of the Sixers increasing their pace this season, if all goes according to plan, then there is a path to Springer consistently receiving minutes next season.

A slow start on that likely disheartened quite a few, but as the game soldered on, so did Springer. Gaining more and more comfort and confidence, he did improve over the course of the game, but his three-point shot remains a major question mark, and any and all questions about him playing at the point should be firmly tabled for now.

Wanting to end on a good note with Springer; the defense is truly exciting. He plays like a bloodhound and can sniff out the ball for the strip or the swat from a mile away. He just needs to become playable offensively. Stop me if you’ve heard that about a Sixer before.

Terquavion Smith

What I saw: Fearless with a short memory and an even quicker trigger

Terquavion Smith is undoubtedly a bucket-getter. It’s not hard to fall in love with his electric scoring ability and unwavering confidence, but he impressed further by the way he thrived creating shots in the pick game and making anyone who ducks under screens or plays drop coverage suffer.

Smith also showed off his improved playmaking, which was one of his most significant areas of growth between his freshman and sophomore seasons at NC State. If he can further develop as a passer (the flashes were nice even in this game), then he may have a quicker path to the NBA than expected as he allows his body to ideally fill out some more.

Ricky Council IV

What I saw: Freak athleticism, future dunk champion, rushes shots, handles tighter than expected but overconfident in passing, hidden bucket getter (will of fire)

There was plenty to see when it comes to Ricky Council IV. While it was clear there is plenty to work on, it was also clear that there’s legitimate potential for Council to make it in this league. It all starts with his unreal athleticism. Council will run all over the court as he looks to baptize defenders, no matter their size.

He rushes his shot a bit and looked a bit panicked at times as defenders closed out, but as the game continued, he rounded his midrange game into form. Council also played a physical brand of basketball which sent him and earned him opportunities at the charity stripe. That type of aggressive play style could certainly be used in Philadelphia. Council also proved to be an active defender, showing off his ability to finish strong off turnovers.

Filip Petruzev

What I saw: Feet move surprisingly well, body is stiff, needs to add weight; what does he do?

While the box score suggests it was a fine night for former second-round pick Filip Petruzev, the eye test tells a different story. I will admit I did not expect Petruzev to have as solid footwork as he possesses, but unfortunately, that’s where the pleasant surprises end.

There’s nothing that is particularly damning about Petruzev’s game, but there also isn’t anything that stands out. He’s an okay rebounder but lacks the functional strength to do it consistently and against the higher level of competition he will face in the NBA. While his feet move surprisingly well, everything above remains stiff to the point that he will be attacked early and often in any potential NBA minutes.

The best of the rest of Sixers/Grizzlies

DJ Steward, who spent last season with Sixers assistant coach Bobby Jackson and the Stockton Kings, had himself a game scoring 15 points while finishing 6/11 from the field and 3/5 from three. He has a long way to go, but Steward could find himself a spot in the league if he keeps this up through Salt Lake City and Vegas.

Hyunjung Lee also deserves a shoutout. He only played eight minutes and missed the only shot he took but managed to finish a +10 on the night. Lee projects to be a strong shooter, but he has to force his way to earn time to prove that. He’ll continue to be a name to watch over the next two games.

And finally, shout out to Sixers’ head coach, who not only took the time to coach the Summer Sixers but also challenged a play in a Summer League game.