2021 Draft Watch: Evaluating Jaden Springer

September 10th, 2020

by Alan Lu

In my quest to further scout players for the 2021 draft, I decided to watch Tennessee’s 6-4, incoming freshman guard, Jaden Springer play in a February 8th game for IMG Academy against Baltimore Poly, as I was able to see this with thanks to YouTube via Dye Sporting Network.  Springer has been drawing some buzz as a first-round prospect, and IMG Academy is a prestigious school that was said to have several five-star players on their team this season.  On this day, Baltimore Poly was able to get a surprising win over IMG, but Jaden Springer was featured significantly in this game, as he made some good and bad plays over the course of this game.  Here are my thoughts on how he fared, as well as how his game may stack up in the NBA.

Tennessee’s 6-4 high school freshman guard, Jaden Springer is an athletic, skilled player that can score and defend, and he could potentially end up being a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
(Photo:
Catalina Fragoso/USA Today Sports)

Jaden Springer is an athletic, skilled swingman that possesses versatile scoring skills.  He excels at attacking the basket and he is also a surprisingly good low post scorer.  He was able to use a pivot move after getting the ball on the block, and he used a drop step move to score on a dunk.  Plus, Springer backed down a smaller defender another time, and he scored on a smooth, turnaround jump hook while getting the extra free throw afterwards.

Plus, he also generally excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  Springer ran the floor to score on a thunderous, two-handed dunk, and he also scored on a layup another time.  Plus, he also received the ball on a backdoor cut, as he then managed to score on a two-handed jam.

However, he struggled more to score on half-court drives.  On the plus side, he can finish plays with his right hand, as he was able to score on a floater, and he also scored on a smooth layup after some fancy ball-handling on a separate play.  On the downside, he lacks an elite first step off the dribble, as he tended to miss shots in traffic, and he also had a couple of his shots blocked. Though he didn’t take many outside shots, Springer was able to make an open spot-up three off the catch.  However, there was another play where he missed on a pull-up jumper from downtown.

Also, Springer was fairly turnover prone on offense.  For the positives, he is an unselfish player that can kick balls out to shooters off the dribble, and he also threw a nice touch pass to a post player to notch another assist.  On the other hand, he also committed a lot of turnovers in this game.   He tended to throw hasty passes that would tend to go astray, and he had a couple of them picked off by his defenders.  Other times, he would commit careless ball-handling turnovers.  He was called for an up and down violation after jumping up and coming down with the ball, and he also dribbled off his own foot out of bounds while trying to break the press in the backcourt another time.  Sometimes he would try to handle the ball when facing significant pressure, and he would get the ball poked away to almost commit additional turnovers.

He didn’t seem to grab many boards in this game, but he was able to get a couple of defensive rebounds, and he would tend to push the pace afterwards to create early transition scoring opportunities for his team.  However, there was one play where he didn’t get a defensive board in his area, as the rebound ended up going to a smaller opponent.

Plus, he also played decent defense in this game.  Springer was able to rotate on a drive to take a ball away to get a steal, and he would look to contest shots to force misses.  However, there was one play where he rotated on a baseline drive but got beat off the dribble after attempting a lazy swipe, which led his teammate to have to commit the foul instead.  On another play, he was called for fouling an opponent in transition by pushing him in the back.

In general, Springer is an athletic, skilled basketball player that can score the basketball, and he is an intriguing prospect that may have considerable upside, but he will need to take more outside shots, and also play more under control on offense.  If he can improve his jump shot and make better decisions on offense; that could help him immensely.  Right now, he projects to be a borderline first round prospect for the 2021 draft, and he is a talented prospect that could end up being a solid role player similar to former veteran swingman, Ricky Davis in the NBA.

Other Notes:

Also, IMG Academy’s 6-9 high school junior forward, Moussa Diabate had a solid showing in his team’s surprising loss to Baltimore Poly.  The French big man excelled as an inside scorer and rebounder, and he made several impressive plays to help his team in this game.

Diabate excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  He is a good athlete that runs the floor well, as he would often catch outlet passes to score on two-handed dunks on the break, and he also drew free throws on a separate occasion.  Plus, he also managed to throw down a two-handed jam off of a cut, and he also would tend to score on quick, strong put backs after leaping up to get offensive rebounds. 

He also showed off adequate low post scoring skills.  After getting the ball around the basket, Diabate was able to score on a powerful, two-handed jam.  However, on another play, he missed completely when he attempted to score on a fadeaway, turnaround jumper.  He also tried to score on a drive to the rim, and he was able to use a hesitation move midway through, but he ended up missing on a layup that time.  On the downside, he didn’t really look to take jumpers from outside of the paint area, and he did not attempt a single three-point shot in this game.

Also, he was quite turnover prone on offense.  On the bright side, Diabate is an unselfish player that can pass out of the post as well as off the dribble, and he was able to dribble up the court and find a teammate ahead on the break to set up a scoring opportunity for him.  However, he would sometimes tend to commit traveling violations when attempting to take the ball to the rim, and he also had a ball poked away off another drive to lose the basketball.  He also was doubled on a drive, and he ended up throwing a pass that got picked off by a defender another time. Plus, Diabate also did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He was able to leap up to get plenty of boards on both sides of the ball, and he generally would crash the glass to help his team get rebounds.

Defensively, he looked to be fairly average in this game.  Diabate rotated to the post to force a tie-up to help his team get a steal, and he would actively contest mid-range jumpers and shots around the basket to force misses.  However, he would sometimes sag too far off his man to allow his opponents to score on jump shots.  In addition, he would sometimes be too aggressive when defending his man, which would lead him to commit plenty of touch fouls.  On another play, he rotated but also got beat off the dribble, as his team then later allowed the opposition to score on that play.

In summary, Moussa Diabate is an athletic, energetic combo forward that possesses considerable upside, and he could project to be a defensive specialist at the NBA level.  He will need to extend his shooting range and work on his jumper, and also tighten his handles.  It’s uncertain if he will reclassify to be in the 2020 recruiting class, but if he doesn’t, he still could project to be a potential first round pick in 2022.

IMG Academy’s standout soon-to-be high school junior, Jarace Walker is a very athletic, skilled playmaker that has a lot of upside as a prospect, and he could end up going very high in the 2023 draft.
(Photo:
John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

IMG Academy’s 6-6 high school sophomore point forward, Jarace Walker is a very athletic, talented playmaker that made some very solid plays in this game.  Though he struggled to score consistently, he was able to make some breathtaking plays against Baltimore Poly, and his best play was when he used a quick hesitation move and drove hard to his left, as he exploded to the rim to score on a magnetic, rim-shaking, gravity-defying dunk. 

Walker shows promise as a player that could potentially develop into a elite, go-to scorer one day.  He is a strong, powerful player that can really accelerate and get up to finish plays at the rim, and he in particular excels at going to his left to score and also draw fouls upon his defenders.  He will sometimes tend to take tough shots that can hurt his shooting percentages, but his ability to get to the rim, and really elevate and score around the basket could potentially allow him to thrive as a scorer on isolation plays at higher levels.

He also was able to make a step back, fadeaway jumper from the mid-range, and Walker showed that he can ably make shots in that area.  However, he also missed on a contested long two after pulling up to hoist up the shot another time.

Plus, he also can score on hustle plays.  Walker ran in to score on a tip-in, and he also drew a foul after getting the ball on the break on a separate occasion.  However, there was one play where he had his shot blocked after attempting to score on a put back.  Also, Walker will need to improve his jump shot from long distances, and he ended up missing all of the threes he took from beyond the arc.

Walker had his ups and downs with the ball in his hands, as he was able to make some really nice passes that resulted in him racking up assists, but he also committed some careless turnovers at other moments of this game.  Walker is a skilled facilitator that can push the pace and throw long passes to set up scores for his teammates on the break, and he will throw accurate bounce passes to cutters to collect dimes.  However, sometimes he would drive up the court hurriedly, as he would lose the ball while handling it, which would result in him committing turnovers.  He also was called for traveling when handling the ball another time.  Occasionally, he will throw inaccurate interior passes that would go astray.

Also, Walker is a very good rebounder that will crash the glass to get numerous boards for his team on both sides of the ball, and sometimes he will bring the ball up the court after getting defensive rebounds.

He also has the potential to develop into a solid defender at the NBA level.  Walker is an active help defender that will poke balls away off of drives and in the post to get a plethora of steals, and he also good instincts and timing that allows him to rotate and block shots.  He tends to make good rotations, and he will use his length and quickness to contest jump shots to force misses.  Sometimes though, he will sag too far off his man, as he will occasionally give up too much space to shooters to allow them to score on jumpers.  Every once in a while, there would be occasions where he wouldn’t even contest shots even when he is in the area to do so, which would lead his team to allow scores off the dribble.

Overall, Jarace Walker is a very athletic point forward that possesses a ton of upside, and he is a player that has an immense amount of potential.  To me, he was by far, the best athlete among all of the prospects that played in this game, and his impressive athleticism and solid ability to make plays when the ball in his hands make him a very intriguing prospect for the NBA.  Based on what I saw, he is a skilled facilitator that can ably get any shot he wants, and he seems to have a similar game to former Sacramento Kings’ guard, Tyreke Evans.

On the other hand, Walker is still a rather unpolished player that will need more time to develop his skills.  If he can channel it in and refine his overall game, he could perhaps end up being a top 5 pick in the 2023 draft.   Right now, Jarace Walker is a high-upside prospect that will need time to refine his game, as he will need to improve his jump shot and take better care of the basketball, but his ability to score, facilitate, defend, and make high-impact plays could make him one of the best prospects that are in the 2022 recruiting class.

Baltimore Poly’s 6-7 high school freshman forward, Kwame Evans Jr. played very well to lead his team to a narrow victory over the IMG Academy.  He shot the ball really well, and he showed off strong scoring skills to help get his team the win.

He is a good shooter that excelled at knocking down open, spot-up threes to provide floor spacing for his team on offense.  He primarily excelled when he would get the time and space to get his shot off, and Evans also made a could of corner threes in this game.

He also showed a solid ability to score on half-court drives to the hoop.  Evans would frequently go hard to the basket, and he particularly can go to his right to get to the rim.  Upon taking the ball to the hoop, Evans showed a knack for drawing plenty of fouls upon his defenders to get to the free throw line often, and he did a very good job of making them when he would get there.  He did drive to his left once, but he ended up missing on a floater.

He also was able to score on hustle plays.  Evans managed to score on a put back, and he also drew free throws on another after leaping up to get an offensive board.  He also received the ball on a backdoor cut another time, but he ended up missing on a fadeaway layup off the glass.  He also showed off some low post scoring skills, and on one play, he used a spin move to draw a foul upon his defender.

Also, Evans displayed fairly average playmaking skills.  He is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he can swing balls to shooters to get them open looks to score the basketball.  However, sometimes he will throw passes that will get deflected by his opponents.  Also, after handling the ball once up the court off of a defensive rebound, he ended up losing the ball to commit a turnover late in this match.

Plus, he also did a decent job of grabbing rebounds for his team.  Evans would leap up to get boards on both sides of the ball, and he also was able to push the ball up the court on one defensive rebound once.

Evans also played solid defense.  He is a long, athletic defender that will play passing lanes to help his team get steals and deflections, and he also was able to rotate on a drive to poke a ball away out of bounds.  He also managed to go in to tie-up an opponent on a rebound to force his man to travel, and he also will use his length and quickness to contest shots off the dribble to force misses.  On the downside, there was one play where he sagged too far off his man, and he didn’t even contest the shot, which led him to allow his man to score on a three-point shot.

Overall, Kwame Evans Jr. is an athletic, skilled swingman that can shoot, score, and defend when he is on the court, and he is a talented prospect that may have a good deal of upside as a prospect for the NBA.  He will still need to work hard and hone his overall game, but if he can continue to progress as an overall player, he could end up being a solid player in the association, as his solid all-around game could enable him to be a potential lottery pick in 2024.

Baltimore Poly’s 6-4 then high-school senior, Brandon Murray started off strong, and he turned in a solid overall performance to lead his team to the victory over IMG Academy.  Next season, he will be playing a post-graduate year for IMG Academy, but from his strong showing against a team that has a very good group of prospects,  it’s clear that Murray has the ability to play for a high-major, NCAA Division I college basketball team. Murray is a skilled scorer that can do so in a variety of ways.  He has a solid pull-up game, as he can ably run off screens and dribble up to score on mid-range jumpers, and he also drove in to score on a smooth floater early on.

Plus, he also is a good athlete that can finish numerous plays around the basket.  Murray drove in to score on an athletic, two-handed dunk on the break, and he also will catch long passes to score on quick, crafty layups.  Plus, he will also draw fouls when going up for shots after leaping up to get offensive rebounds.

He also is a good spot-up shooter.  Murray was able to make two quick, open three-point shots in this game.  However, he struggled more to make threes when shooting on the move, and he also had more trouble to make them when they would be tightly contested.

On the downside, he was a bit turnover prone on offense.  For the positives, Murray can throw solid passes off the dribble, and he can throw long passes to find teammates in stride to set up scoring chances for them.  However, he would sometimes struggle to handle the ball in traffic, as he would get the ball taken away from him to lose it to his opponents, and he also threw an errant pass from the ground that got intercepted by a defender another time.

Also, he did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  Murray would actively look to crash the glass, and he was able to get multiple boards on both ends of the floor.  However, there was one play where he didn’t block out his man, which led his team to allow an opponent to score on a tip-in.

Murray also played solid defense in this game.  He did a great job of getting steals and blocks, and he is an active, rangy help defender that has good anticipation skills.  He would play passing lanes and poke balls away to get steals, and he also dove for a loose ball on the ground to help his team collect another.  Plus, he also has good feet to stay with his man on drives and he also will make solid rotations, and he can get up to block shots off the dribble.  Plus, he will apply significant ball pressure, and he will get into his opponent’s body to force difficult shots that would miss.  Occasionally though, he would defend his man too aggressively, which would lead him to be out of position that would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, Brandon Murray is an athletic, skilled combo guard that can shoot, score, and defend when he is on the court.  He is a vastly underrated prospect that should’ve been rated a lot higher by recruiting services, and he is a fundamentally sound player that has a knack for making shots and playing good defense in games.  He is a definitely a prospect to keep an eye on, and if he continues to progress and hone his game, he could one day end up being a solid role player in the NBA.

Marquette’s incoming 6-7 freshman forward, Justin Lewis had a solid showing for Baltimore Poly to help lead his team to a stunning win over the IMG Academy.  He excelled as a scorer and defender in this game, and he also did a terrific job of drawing and making many free throws in this game.

Lewis did a good job of making mid-range jumpers, and he would frequently run off ball screens to get the ball prior to scoring on those shots.  Plus, Lewis also excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  He also would run the floor to beat his man down court, as he was able to score on an athletic dunk on the break, and he would draw free throws by going hard to the hoop on other plays.  In addition, he also managed to draw free throws after cutting to the rim to get the ball, as he then got fouled on an alley-oop dunk attempt.

Also, Lewis showed a decent ability to score in the post.  He utilized an up and under move to draw a foul upon his defender, which enabled him to get to the free throw line that time.

He also flashed the ability to score off the dribble.  He was able to draw free throws on a baseline drive to the hoop, but sometimes he would miss on awkward, contested jumpers, and he also missed completely on a put back once.  In addition, Lewis also missed twice when hoisting up three-point shots from beyond the arc.

However, he was fairly turnover prone on offense.  For the positives, Lewis is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he can throw long outlet passes to set up scores for his teammates on the break.  However, he had a tendency to get the ball poked away to lose the basketball when handling in the post or off of drives.  In addition, he threw an inaccurate bounce pass that was dropped out of bounds, and he also dropped a catchable pass that also led to another team turnover.

Also, Lewis did a fairly good job of rebounding the basketball.  He was active at crashing the glass as he would get multiple boards on both sides of the ball, and he would sometimes bring the ball up after leaping up to get defensive boards.

Plus, he also played solid defense in this game.  Lewis did a great job of getting steals and blocks in this game, and he would actively contest shots to get stops for his team.  He would poke balls away and jump on errant passes to get steals, and he also would block shots inside to himself due to possessing solid length, athleticism, and instincts to do so.  Plus, he would rotate to contest shots in the paint, and he would use his length to contest jumpers to force misses.  However, there was one play where he tried to front his man when defending a bigger player in the post, but he ended up allowing an easy catch and score that time.

Overall, Justin Lewis is an athletic, energetic combo forward that can score and defend when he is on the court, and he could project to be a defensive specialist if he ends up making his way to the NBA one day.  He will need to improve his jump shot and continue to extend his shooting range, and he will also need to tighten up his handles.  Still, he was a good get for Marquette, and if things go well for him, Lewis could perhaps end up being a serviceable role player in the NBA sometime down the road.

Mississippi’s 6-3 incoming freshman guard, Matthew Murrell had his fair share of ups and downs for IMG Academy in their loss to Baltimore Poly.  He is a jump shooter that will look to space the floor, and he also showed off some playmaking and defensive skills in this game.

He took many three-point shots in this game, and Murrell was able to make a couple of open threes from beyond the arc.  Sometimes though, he would be prone to rushing his shots from long distances that would lead to misses.  He also managed to score on a strong drive in transition.  Also, he also managed to draw free throws after hoisting up a pull-up mid-range jumper once.

Plus, he also displayed fairly good playmaking skills.  Murrell will push the ball up the court, and he can find open teammates on the break to set up scores for them.  Plus, he is also an unselfish player that can get his teammates the basketball.  Sometimes though, he can play too wildly on offense as he can tend to over-dribble into traffic, and he had the ball taken away from him once midway through this contest. Also, he was able to leap up to get a couple of defensive rebounds, and he was able to push the ball up the court off of one defensive board.

He also played fairly average defense in this game.  Murrell is an active help defender that will jump passes and dive on loose balls to get steals and deflections, and he also rotated to block a shot on a drive to himself later on.  However, he will need to be a more focused defender on the ball in games.  Sometimes, he would get beat off the dribble, which would lead to scrambling situations that would result in his team allowing three-point scores.  Another time, he didn’t pay attention to his man or communicate to a teammate that a screener was coming, which led his teammate to have to foul an opponent on a cut.  On a separate play, he went the wrong way when defending a pick and roll ball handler on a screen, which led his team to allow a score off the dribble.

Overall, Matthew Murrell is an athletic, skilled combo guard that can do a little bit of everything, but he will need to be a more consistent performer in games.  If he can play more under control and be a more focused on-ball defender; that could help him go a long way.  If things break his way, he could end up being a microwave type of scorer off the bench for a team in the NBA sometime down the road.

Duke’s incoming 7-0 freshman center, Mark Williams played for IMG Academy in this game, but unfortunately, his play was fairly underwhelming in his team’s loss to Baltimore Poly.  Despite being a strong, mobile big man that showed the ability to make plays on the interior, he did not take enough shots, was entirely too turnover prone, and also struggled to defend out on the perimeter in this game.

Williams showed an adequate ability to score in the post.  He managed to leap up to catch a high entry pass in the post, as he then turned to score on a powerful, two-handed dunk.  However, on another play, after getting deep position on the block, he missed on an awkward, fadeaway turnaround jumper, as he fell down after trying to land from the attempt.

He also showed the ability to score on hustle plays.  Williams ran in to get the offensive rebound, and he then used a hop step to score on a layup.  However, after receiving the ball on a cut another time, he ended up having his dunk blocked at the rim.  In addition, he didn’t really look to take jumpers outside of the paint area, and he did not take nearly enough shots in this game.

Also, he was quite turnover prone in this game.  On one good play, Williams threw an entry pass to notch an assist early on.  However, he tended to commit ball-handling turnovers, as he would get the ball poked away when getting the ball in the post, and he also was called for a carrying violation after attempting unsuccessfully to bring the ball up once.

He didn’t seem to grab many rebounds in this game, but he was able to get his fair share of boards, as he would chase down balls to get them for his team.  However, sometimes he would not secure balls, as he would sometimes lose them to his opponents, and he would sometimes allow opponents to get rebounds in his area, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores afterwards.  Williams appears to be an area rebounder that will need to improve his hands in order to grab the rebounds he should get in games.

Defensively, he looked to be about average.  For the positives, he was able to rotate to block a shot off of a drive, and he would contest shots in the paint due to possessing solid length, timing, and mobility.  He also rotated to a drive to poke a ball away and he also deflected an inbounds pass out of bounds another time to nearly get steals for his team.

However, he struggled to defend out on the perimeter, and he doesn’t move his feet very well out there.  On one play, he struggled to stay with his man, and he ended up fouling on a drive.  Another time, he got beat off the dribble, which forced his teammate to rotate to commit the foul.  Another play, he didn’t stay up on his man as he gave up too much space to a shooter, and he allowed his man to score on a mid-range jump shot.

Overall, Mark Williams is a tough, physical big man that will need to refine his game on both sides of the ball, and he may have a lot of work to do in order to be a legitimate NBA prospect.  He will need to be a more assertive offensive player and improve his jump shot, and he will need to focus more on his rebounding and perimeter defense in games.  As Duke usually has a lot of high-end players that play for them, it’s uncertain if Williams will make much of an impact for them right away, but if things pan out for him, he could perhaps end up being a rotational backup center in the NBA one day.

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