76ers Notes: Springer’s Continued Growth, Maxey’s Strong Play Stand Out Early in Preseason

76ers Notes: Springer’s Continued Growth, Maxey’s Strong Play Stand Out Early in Preseason Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers began 2023-24 preseason action with a pair of losses against the Boston Celtics. Both Joel Embiid and James Harden have yet to hit the floor for the Sixers this preseason. Head coach Nick Nurse told reporters Harden, who rejoined the team during training camp, is still ramping up towards game action. Harden, in his first time speaking to the media since returning to the Sixers, said he plans on playing. He also reiterated the relationship between himself and the front office is broken beyond repair.

The highlights of the Sixers’ preseason thus far have been centered around Tyrese Maxey’s impressive play and some strong bench performances. Here are some notes from the first two games of Sixers preseason action:

Springer Shows Growth, Battles for Rotation Spot

One of the most interesting players to watch on the Sixers so far this preseason has been Jaden Springer. The 21-year old is putting together a strong showing, impacting the game on both ends of the court. His defensive ability is at the heart of his skillset. He has made improvements as an off-ball defender, and his on-ball skills continue to stand out. The highlight play of the Sixers’ preseason thus far was Springer meeting Jayson Tatum at the rim and sending back his dunk attempt. The play was one of the better blocks made around the entire NBA so far this preseason.

As impressive as that block was, his offensive improvement is far more noteworthy. Thus far in his young career, his lack of offensive production has held him back from becoming a NBA rotation player. However, it looks like those days could soon be in the past. Through two games this preseason, Springer is shooting 80% from 3-point range on 2.5 attempts per game. While shooting that high of a percentage is clearly not sustainable, it is still good to see him start finding some success as a jump shooter. In order for him to not be a liability offensively, he is going to have to become at least a capable shooter. His hot shooting start this preseason can hopefully boost his confidence heading into the regular season.

Another area Springer worked on throughout the offseason is becoming stronger physically. It is clear he added some strength, and he is using it to his advantage both on drives to the basket and as a rebounder. He used a combination of good positioning and hustle to grab a team-leading four offensive rebounds in their loss in the preseason opener.

Springer ended last season as a fringe rotation player, with most of his minutes coming in garbage time. Between his improvements offensively and strong play so far this preseason, Springer has definitely put himself in the conversation for a regular rotation spot. He will be competing for minutes with veterans Patrick Beverley and Danny Green.

Reed Slowly Adjusting to Bigger Offensive Role

Nurse has high hopes for Paul Reed, telling him during the offseason he wants to mold him into a Pascal Siakam-type player. Reed is expected to have an important role off the bench. The 24-year old is likely to play more than the 10.9 minutes per game he had last season. The Sixers signed Reed to a three-year, $23 million contract this offseason. The 24-year old has a lot of untapped potential in his game.

However, Reed is off to a rough start this preseason. He has struggled to fit in, often looking out of place and trying too hard to create things for himself. The results have been rough to the tune of 7.5 points per game on 35.3% shooting from the field. He has yet to make a 3-pointer this preseason, something the coaching staff is looking to add to his arsenal. It is going to take time for Reed to adjust to his bigger offensive role. He spoke to reporters following practice on Tuesday about making the adjustment.

“The most important thing is when I’m open, not hesitating, and realizing where my shots are gonna come from and when are they going to be available,” Reed said, via PHLY Sports. “It’s kind of new for me. Last season, if I was taking threes, I probably wouldn’t play for like ten games. This year, they want me to shoot the ball more. I’m still making the adjustment. It’s just realizing where my shots are going to come from within the offense.”

Reed, as well as fellow backup center Mo Bamba, would benefit from playing with more of a structure. A lot of his success last year came when playing with Harden. The 10-time All-Star consistently set Reed up in positions to succeed last season. Slowing the game down and having the lead guard, whether it is Harden or Maxey, create for Reed will go a long way towards helping him get into a rhythm offensively. It will take time, but the Sixers are confident in Reed’s ability to adapt to his expanded offensive role. For now, he will continue to impact the game both on the glass and with his chaotic style of defense.

Maxey’s Strong Start to Preseason

Maxey followed up an impressive training camp with a pair of strong performances so far in the preseason. With Embiid and Harden yet to play in preseason action, Maxey effortlessly took hold of the reigns. He looked in mid-season form, scoring 13 points in the opening quarter of the team’s loss to the Boston Celtics in their preseason opener. The 22-year-old guard also continued to look good playing in transition, where he can put his quickness to good use. He also showed some progression in his ability to confidently attack mismatches, at one point driving by Al Horford for an easy layup. The team has been pressing Maxey to use his speed to attack mismatches on the perimeter whenever he gets a chance. Through two games, Maxey is averaging 20.5 points while shooting 47.1% from the field.

With the uncertainty surrounding Harden’s future with the Sixers, Maxey will potentially be asked to shoulder more of the playmaking burden. On that front, he showed some signs of progress, averaging 3.5 assists while committing just 1.0 turnovers per game. The offense still looks clunky at times, which is to be expected in the preseason. However, Maxey offered some reason to believe he can continue to improve as a playmaker.

On the defensive end, Maxey still struggled at times against Boston’s strong complement of guards. However, he did make a few good plays as a help defender. Defense might never be Maxey’s strong suit. As long as he continues to excel offensively, the tradeoff is well worth it for the Sixers.

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