Making Sense Of Three Sixers Summer League Standouts

Philadelphia’s summer journey has been led by some exceptional play from a talented trio that has (literally) jumped off the screen. In Jaden Springer, Terquavion Smith, and Ricky Council IV the Sixers have an exciting nucleus of young and explosive prospects, opening the door to potential future NBA roles in an increasingly uncertain roster. So what to make from this trio’s summer play so far? And what can we project heading into 2023-2024?

JADEN SPRINGER

Defense is the name of the game with Phiadelphia’s former first-round pick. Springer’s sudden bounce unlocks significant activity around the perimeter and at the rim. Springer finished Utah Summer League averaging an impressive 3 steals and 1 block per game. At a comparatively small 6’4″ by NBA standards, Springer has provided substantial rim presence from the weak side and as a help defender. Take a look at how he catches ball handlers off-guard by flashing his explosiveness as a shot blocker:

Summer league has only served to validate the defensive player we saw in very limited minutes last year. Springer was among only 3 guards to average 2 steals and 1 block per 36 minutes (minimum 80 minutes played). These droplets of defensive prowess are a welcomed addition to a roster increasingly short on disruptive defenders. The recent departures of Matisse Thybulle and Jalen McDaniels have opened another massive vacuum in Philadelphia’s defense. One that Springer will likely get a shot at plugging right away.

Offensively the storyline takes a topsy-turvy turn. Immediate positives lay in his ability to leverage compact strength and finish off downhill contact. Springer finished Utah’s Summer averaging a league-leading 7.7 free throws per game while shooting a reliable 91% from the line. But the expectation that this volume will translate at the next level is far-fetched.

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Springer’s stiff and rather mechanical handle makes drawing extra defenders difficult. It is also easy to notice a lack of point guard vision, with Philadelphia’s improvised ball handler often driving into bodies without an alternative plan. Beyond the questionable ball handling, Springer’s unreliable off-ball shooting lays significant barriers in his ability to stick in high-leverage NBA situations.

With new head coach Nick Nurse the expectation is that his staff can unlock more successful offensive scenarios. One way is to utilize Springer as a connector by leaning on ball movement into open space to simplify his decision-making. Springer has displayed enough on-ball juice to get by bigger defenders. His next step is to attack space when the ball rotates, and either finish at the rim or find the next open shooter. Providing timely quick decision plays within the flow of the offense is Springer’s ticket to a defined role in 2023-2024.

TERQUAVION (TERQ) SMITH

Smith’s unbashful offensive game has been on full display and it has opened the eyes of those who believe there is a role in this year’s roster. Terq’s ability to extend the floor from a significant NBA range has enticed memories of a recently discarded sharpshooter in Isaiah Joe.

There is a case to be made that Smith may already be one of the Sixers’ better bench shooters today with recent Georges Niang and Shake Milton departures. Thru four Vegas Summer League showings, Smith is averaging a healthy 7 three-point attempts per game while shooting a respectable 39% from distance.

But Smith’s smooth release and ability to quickly set both feet is part of the story so far. While navigating pick-and-roll action, the Sixers’ undrafted free agent has displayed the patience to circle screens and set up his rolling big man. There are flashes of a very good passer, with Smith showing the propensity to connect on entry passes that lead to easy baskets.

Defensively Smith is not a finished product. His low bend puts him in a vulnerable spot guarding quick guard play. There are also lapses in defensive judgments that should be ironed out with NBA coaching. But where he lacks in physical strength and experience he makes it up in effort. Smith’s thin frame makes it easier to squeeze past screens while defending pick-and-roll, and he has shown the competitive mindset to do so. The Sixer summer standout has also amped his intensity level in the form of disruptive steals and blocks.

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Envisioning an immediate role with the big club is not nearly as distant as it appeared on draft night. Smith is a tenacious open-court player and his ability to push the pace in transition is a significant tool in Nurse’s toolbox. Can you imagine multiple guard lineups with both Maxey and Smith turbocharging the offense? Good luck keeping up with that duo. But his door-kicking moment will likely fall as a spot-up shooter, where this North Carolina State star is already flashing significant potential this summer.

RICKY COUNCIL IV

You may have to squint a bit harder to find an NBA player in Ricky Council. But that does not mean it is not there. Council’s immediate attributes are the athleticism and wingspan combination. At 6’6″ with a 6’10” wingspan Council provides the prototypical NBA body for a wing player. Toss in a future NBA slam dunk contestant into the mix and you get this:

Watch your head! Council’s high level of athleticism has unlocked positive offense at the rim. His size and aggression are key attributes to finishing over bigger bodies, and Philadelpha’s coaching staff has enabled those looks off cuts and dribble hand-offs.

Beyond the ESPN-worthy highlights Council has displayed potential as a switchable defender and rebounding presence. While defending without fouling is a concern, he has displayed the functional foot speed to switch onto guards and defend 1-3. Council is also able to stay connected to his defensive assignment coming off screens. His plus wingspan is a major factor in impacting the release as shooters come off those screens ready to fire.

However, Council is far from a polished product. Immediate concerns lay on his ability to hit open shots. The Arkansas standout has looked reluctant to let it fly from deep, often turning open looks into off-the-dribble turnovers. This is a concern for a player with a career 30% average from three in college. Head coach Nick Nurse has hinted at re-working his shooting mechanics in an effort to polish this gem. But shooting range has never been part of Council’s DNA. With a bench already short on high-level snipers you wonder if there is a quick path to NBA minutes.

Council is someone who plays with great pace and understands the value of ball movement. The lack of structure in summer league play often puts these players under the stress of playing outside their means. The expectation is that an NBA-level system will reduce Council’s on-court responsibility. Thus leaning into his speed is one way this undrafted free agent can win at the next level.

Thiago Scabbia
Thiago Scabbia

Thiago is a NBA and Philadelphia 76ers writer who started his journey for The Painted Lines in 2020. Portraying the storyline with numbers is his passion, and this is seen in some of his work breaking down draft prospects and in-season topics. Thiago is also a constant guest in Sixer post-game shows where you can follow his analysis for the night’s game

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