Leading up to the 2021 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers' first selection came late in the first round. With the 28th overall pick at their disposal, it was unclear if the Sixers would hold onto the selection and snag a new rookie or sell the pick off in a package for a veteran player who might have a chance to contribute to the team right away.
All signs pointed towards Morey trading the pick. Reality showed that wouldn't be the case. Waiting patiently to get on the clock, the Sixers didn't strike any deals beyond their Thursday morning acquisition of an additional second-round pick.
When the 28th pick was on the clock, Morey weighed out the Sixers' offers for their selection. A few deals were there, but so was Tennessee guard Jaden Springer. Ultimately, Morey took on the latter.
"We had offers," Morey revealed. "We prefer Jaden. We were excited about Jaden and thought it was a great fit, and it's pretty rare to have a guy -- especially at 28 -- that's already demonstrated a strong level of play in college before age 19. We just thought that combination was too unique to pass up."
The former five-star recruit coming out of IMG Academy played just a single season at Tennessee last year. Despite being in his freshman season, Springer started in 15 of the 25 games he appeared in. Averaging 25 minutes on the floor, Springer put up 12 points per game while hitting on 47-percent of his shots from the field and 44-percent of his threes. In addition to his offensive contributions, Springer proved to be a solid defender and earned All-Freshman honors in the SEC.
Despite having a lack of college experience, Daryl Morey is confident that Springer will grow into a reliable three-and-D guy in the NBA. While he doesn't want to bank on potential too much, considering it's all unknown, Morey couldn't help but get excited about his team's first-rounder following the conclusion of the draft on early Friday morning.
“Jaden is really exciting,” Morey said after the big event. “I know GMs get killed for talking about upside, but he’s not even 19 yet. He was already a productive player at Tennessee. We feel good about his ability to be a three-and-D player in this league; we all know how valuable they are.”
Morey admitted Springer would be a work in progress. Considering he's young and has a lack of experience even at the collegiate level, the veteran President understands there will likely be a learning curve. However, after getting a little opportunity to learn about Springer and his work ethic, Morey is confident the former Volunteer can quickly adapt to life in the pros.
"He made a very high percentage of his threes in college, but often the volume will tell you a little bit more," Morey explained. "We think his shooting will be something that probably right out of the gate is, we wouldn’t expect him to come in and bang 40-percent of his NBA threes, but we know he’s a worker. We know he has the ability. We know he can do things, he has touch around the rim and can make free throws. All of those things often indicate someone who can shoot later.”
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.