When the 2021 NBA Draft was approaching, not many expected the Philadelphia 76ers actually to use their first-round selection. Sixers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey proved everybody wrong for the second-straight season.
Last year, the Sixers felt more than comfortable keeping their 21st overall pick as the Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey slid down the board. When Philly landed Maxey, the pick was heavily applauded as many believed the Sixers got incredible value landing the young Kentucky standout beyond the lottery.
One draft later, the Sixers are in a similar position after they selected Tennessee guard Jaden Springer. Although Springer hardly had any ties to the Sixers during the pre-draft process, Philly felt more than confident passing up on a few trade offers to select the 19-year-old freshman instead.
While it's difficult to say whether they made the right move or not since Springer has yet to touch the court for the Sixers, two draft analysts, Sam Vecenie and John Hollinger, believe the 76ers made the right pick on paper.
"If he figures out the jumper, he’s a terrific 3-and-D two-guard who can pinch hit at the one sometimes, take on tough perimeter defensive assignments with how good he is on the ball and hopefully provide value on offense," Vecenie wrote in his post-draft analysis. "The road really isn’t that far, even if the upside is something more in the range of an effective role player as opposed to a star.
Former front office executive John Hollinger wouldn't have taken any other player at 28 if he were in Morey's shoes. "I had Springer rated in my top 20 and think Philadelphia got good value here," he wrote. "He profiles as more of a combo guard and his role could collide with that of Shake Milton, but his defense may be good enough to get him some minutes right away. While I’ve also argued for Butler or McBride in previous picks, Springer is younger and has more long-term upside. I like his chance to make an impact here in future seasons."
Daryl Morey didn't want to dwell on the upside of Springer too much as he understands there's a lot to be proven. But all 30 teams in the NBA are in the same position. Without a single player being proven at the NBA level in the draft, all executives, analysts, and scouts have to talk about is the upside of their prospects. With the little information we have, it seems the Sixers got themselves another value pick deep in the first round. Soon enough, we'll see if it's really true.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.