76ers stay local in draft; pick Villanova’s Bridges
The Sixers landed the Texas Tech guard – they just had to give up their 1-A to get him.
The Sixers acquired Smith from the Phoenix Suns for Villanova standout Mikal Bridges in a swap of first-round picks that gives the blossoming Eastern Conference playoff team one more rotation played needed toward completing ”The Process.”
But the key to the deal may not be Smith. It’s the unprotected first-round pick in 2021 that the Suns surrendered in the deal that coach and acting general manager Brett Brown pegged as the pivotal part of the trade.
”How do you acquire things that attract stars or develop stars,” Brown asked. ”That pick might be the key to all of this. That pick might be the thing that links a possible trade.”
The Sixers are used to waiting in Brown’s five-year tenure; the franchise had made a habit of waiting for picks Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz to make delayed debuts for a variety of reasons.
Smith, who worked out twice for the Sixers during the draft process, will fight for minutes in the rotation. But at least he’ll play.
”They run in transition. I feel I can be a part of that,” Smith said. ”Ben Simmons, he can bring it up and make good passes. I’m a good cutter, so he’ll make me look good.”
For a while, the Sixers appeared to have a happy homecoming lined up on draft night. They selected Bridges with the 10th pick, a decision universally applauded in Philadelphia because of his starring role for the national champion Wildcats and because his mother works in human resources for the 76ers’ parent company.
The family affair turned sour in a hurry.
Bridges was traded shortly after he wrapped a press conference expressing his excitement at playing for his hometown team.
Brown said Bridges was listed as the 76ers’ 1-A player – their top choice – and had Smith at 1-B. Once the Suns sweetened the pot with a first-round pick, Brown knew the Sixers had to act on the deal.
The 19-year-old Smith averaged 11.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists a game in his lone season at Texas Tech.
”We believe entirely in time he has the ability to be incredibly unique and maybe even great,” Brown said.
The Sixers also selected Wichita State guard Landry Shamet with the 26th overall pick. He averaged 14.9 points and shot 44 percent from 3-point range in his sophomore season with the Shockers.
The Sixers made their picks just two weeks after Bryan Colangelo resigned as president of basketball operations in the wake of a Twitter debacle where he was found ”careless and in some instances reckless” of sharing of sensitive team information.
Brown was put in charge on an interim basis as the franchise searches for a new general manager and made all final decisions on draft night. Brown, who took the 76ers from 10 wins to the third seed in the Eastern Conference in just two seasons, signed a three-year contract extension that runs through the 2021-2022 season.
Brown had Smith, Big 12 All-Defensive Team selection, in his sight all along.
”He was like, `We’re going to make something happen,”’ Smith said. ”Apparently, he did.”
The Sixers won 52 games this season and beat Miami in the first round of the playoffs before they were eliminated in the conference semis by Boston. Under Brown’s watch, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have blossomed into two of the top young players in the league.
The Sixers have roughly $30 million in salary cap space and expected to be players in the free-agent market.
”We are star hunting, or we are star developing. That’s how you win a championship,” Brown said.
At Barclays Center, the NBA draft site, a plane flying above the arena carried three banners. One had LeBron James’ No. 23 with a crown and the Liberty Bell, another urges him to ”Strive for GOATNESS” and the last reads (hash)PHILLYWANTSLEBRON. Power Home Remodeling, a Philadelphia-based company, has become a James recruiter, originally setting up three billboards in Cleveland urging him to come to the city. The company also flew Thursday’s billboards in Brooklyn.
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