Sixers exercise fourth-year option on Jaden Springer

Boston Celtics’ Payton Pritchard, left, drives against Philadelphia 76ers’ Jaden Springer during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Oct. 31, 2023 will long be remembered by Philadelphia 76ers fans as the day the team traded away James Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers. While that story dominated headlines and airwaves on that fateful Tuesday, the Sixers made another move with potentially lasting implications by exercising the fourth-year option on Jaden Springer’s contract for the 2024-25 NBA season. Kyle Neubeck and Derek Bodner of PHLY Sixers were the first to report.

According to Bodner, Springer’s contract for next season, which is now guaranteed, is worth over $4 million.

Springer has not played many quality minutes in the NBA, but there is an aspect to his game that breeds curiosity. For Springer, it all starts on the defensive end. His football player-esque body combines physicality with athleticism, which allows him to body defenders both on the perimeter and around the paint.

Already twice this season, Springer has performed highlight reel-worthy blocks. In the Sixers season opener, he erased a shot by Damian Lillard, pinning the ball to the backboard with two hands. Then, against Portland, Springer blocked Shaedon Sharpe from behind in transition, once again spiking the ball against the glass.

Though he has thrived defensively, Springer has two major areas of opportunity, both of which should improve over time and with opportunity.

The first is that Springer struggles to avoid fouling, like most young players. Some of the struggles are reputationally based, that being that a young player will not get the benefit of the doubt against an established superstar — Damian Lillard is an example that comes to mind. Other times, it is purely Springer’s lack of experience that leads him to racking fouls in a way that is not like the struggles we’ve seen from Paul Reed at times.

In time, there is no reason to doubt that Springer can clean up his game, but for now, it is absolutely an area of opportunity for the Sixers’ young guard.

The other struggle for Springer is that he has been a functional zero offensively in the regular season. While he proved to be more than capable in the G League, being named the G League MVP last season, and looked vastly improved during the preseason, that has not carried into success in the regular season, at least not yet.

Despite the absence of an offensive game, Springer has proved useful in spurts as a minor rotation member. After the James Harden trade, it remains to be seen how much opportunity there is for Springer in the Sixers’ rotation, however.

While none of the players the Sixers acquired would be qualified as guards, there may just be too much talent ahead of him on the depth chart at the moment, which could eventually and potentially lead to a trade involving Springer.

Does this move guarantee Springer is with the Sixers next season?

Jaden Springer, Deleware Bluecoats (Philly Sports Network, Zach Ciavolella)

Alongside the recently acquired KJ Martin, Springer is one of the few young assets the Sixers have, at least without considering Tyrese Maxey, who repeatedly has been called “untouchable” in trade talks. Should the Sixers pursue a trade at the deadline, moving off of Springer or Martin would surely not be off the table for the right deal. With Springer’s contract now guaranteed for next season, that rationale carries over as the Sixers could potentially utilize him in an offseason trade as well.

At just over $4 million for next year, Srpinger would be able to slide into nearly any deal in hopes of boosting the value of an offer.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the Sixers exercising this option is the optionality it gives the team moving forward. They may be very well content with Springer on the roster, but a team looking to load up on younger pieces could certainly pine after a player who’s flashed the type of defensive prowess and athleticism that Springer has.

For now, Springer is a member of the Sixers through the end of next season. While that is always subject to change, the organization has shown a certain degree of belief in the young guard, and he could very well remain as a reasonably priced depth piece.