76ers

Carson Wentz to lend Sixers a helping hand

ap-carson-wentz.jpg
AP Images

Carson Wentz to lend Sixers a helping hand

Sixers fans have been chanting "E-A-G-L-E-S" loudly throughout the Wells Fargo Center all season.

Expect those chants to be taken to another level Saturday. 

Why? Because Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is slated to ring the ceremonial pregame bell before the Sixers take on the Magic.

Wentz has been a supporter of the Sixers, donning his own personalized No. 11 jersey.

Based on how the crowd has reacted to other Eagles attending games, Wentz is sure to receive a roaring welcome. 

Sixers' 1st-round trade all about flexibility to chase star players

Sixers' 1st-round trade all about flexibility to chase star players

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers had plans for options “1A” and “1B” with the No. 10 pick in the 2018 NBA draft. Then, they had plans for their future.

For the first time in years, this draft wasn’t about the Sixers finding the next big star in the making. It provided an opportunity for the them to potentially acquire a player who’s already made his mark in the NBA. 

“We are star hunting,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “Or we are star developing. That’s how you win a championship.” 

The Sixers began their night by drafting Villanova forward Mikal Bridges 10th overall. Beyond his collegiate ties, he grew up locally and his mother works for the organization. It was an easy fit, both on and off the court, with his skills to contribute this coming season. The Sixers ranked Bridges option “1A” among all prospects. 

The draft, though, was far from over. As the first round continued, so did discussions with other teams. The Suns came to the Sixers with an offer they couldn’t turn down — Texas guard Zhaire Smith, also known as the Sixers’ “1B,” and the Heat’s 2021 unprotected first-round pick. That’s right, unprotected. 

The Sixers had to put the personal connections aside. They said yes to the deal.

“There is a human side to this that is kind of really hard to explain,” Brown, who approved the final decision, said. “We all, I am assuming, go from this level of excitement and coincidence, like you can’t make this up, to something as a group, we sit there and we field offers. Again, one we knocked back that was a great opportunity, really a great opportunity. 

“And then there it is. There’s this thing that involves our 1B. It wasn’t like it involved another player. It was our 1B who we had targeted and brought back twice and studied the things that we felt he could improve on to really be quite different in the NBA because of his incredible character and athleticism and toughness. 

“And then there’s a 2021 pick, and we all understand that that could be the year that high school people are allowed into the NBA and that is far out. And it also could be the thing … that could be the thing that flips it with us having more assets to enhance a realistic trade for a star.” 

There are times with trades like this that the pick becomes an afterthought, a throw-in to complete the deal. Not in this case. 

The Sixers are looking to elevate the roster with “high-level talent.” While they have the salary cap flexibility to land a mega free agent like LeBron James or Paul George, there are no guarantees. If they were to try to acquire a star through a heavily-packaged trade, the inclusion of a first-round pick could be the difference maker in making it happen. Kawhi Leonard headlines the NBA’s the top trade prospects.  

“We talked about it all the time and it always comes back to what you hear us say all the time, ‘How do you get a star?’” Brown said. “You’re going to need assets, we understand that. If you’re going to really want to go out into a trade, they’re going to look at what do you have. The more good things we have obviously the better off we can attract the stars that we all know are out there … 

“It happened organically. It wasn’t something that we sought. They chased us. They chased us and they chased us hard. Obviously, the rewards, the assets that they gave up were something that was hard for us to backpedal from.”

What the Sixers do with the 2021 pick remains to be seen. What is certain in the now is the team sees potential for Smith. The 19-year old averaged 11.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals last season as a freshman. He isn’t projected to be the immediate contributor that Bridges was, but the Sixers have time to develop rookies with their successful young core already intact. 

“The fact that he has a foundation that is incredibly unique in his relation to his athleticism [made him 1B],” Brown said. “The foundation that he has in his character, the foundation that he has in his defense, the incredible growth that we are seeing in his shot, his ability to create his own shot. There is no mystery of how we want to play here in Philadelphia, nor is there no mystery on the direction our sport is growing … We believe entirely in time he has the ability to be incredibly unique, maybe even great.”

The Sixers’ draft night trade could be just the beginning of a summer of major moves. 

More on the Sixers

What roles will Landry Shamet and Shake Milton play for Sixers?

What roles will Landry Shamet and Shake Milton play for Sixers?

CAMDEN, N.J. — The main story from Thursday night’s NBA draft was the Sixers’ surprising first-round trade of No. 10 pick Mikal Bridges for No. 16 selection Zhaire Smith and a 2021 first-rounder (see story). Deservedly so. 

But the Sixers also had five other picks heading into the draft. It’s worth breaking down the picks they traded away, the ones they kept, and how their selections after Smith could fit with the team.

No. 26: Landry Shamet
Shamet’s standout skill is his outside shot. The Wichita State junior shot 44.2 percent from three-point range last season — he’s excellent spotting up or running around screens. The 6-5 guard is a very smart player and has good instincts as a passer. However, Shamet isn’t a great athlete and he may not have the handles or quickness to be an effective shot creator in the NBA. Many experts had Shamet projected in the second round.

“I think just immediately, I can provide three-point shooting and just someone that’s going to play hard,” Shamet said in a conference call from Brooklyn after he was selected. “Playing for Coach [Gregg] Marshall at Wichita State, you’re not going to slack off at the defensive end. ... In the NBA now, the three-point shot is so important, and I can provide that right away.”

Brett Brown said he was impressed with Shamet’s shooting and attitude when he worked out with the Sixers last week.

“His ability to just play basketball and play the modern-day game, and his character,” Brown said. “I enjoyed the research on the person. I really enjoyed communicating with him on different levels … and then you saw him play, he’s got a lot of game. And I see him being a combo type of guard that can shoot, make plays and I think really has a prideful approach to his defense that was really attractive to us.”

No. 38: Khyri Thomas — traded to Pistons for two future second-round picks
The Creighton guard, a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year, seemed like a steal at No. 38, and his impressive defensive ability and outside shooting may have fit well with the Sixers (see profile). Ultimately, the Sixers opted to accumulate more assets, something Brown said was a key reason why the team took the Suns’ first-round deal.

No. 39: Reportedly traded to Lakers for 2019 second-round pick and cash
This deal was reported on Wednesday night. Again, piling up assets.

No. 54: Shake Milton
The Sixers acquired the 54th pick (Milton) by trading away the 56th and 60th picks to the Mavericks.

Milton, the SMU product, is a fluid playmaker who does a lot of things well. He averaged 18.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.4 steals. Like with Shamet, his versatility and character appealed to Brown.

“I think he’s incredibly interesting with a 7-1 wingspan and a 6-6 frame that’s again a combo type of player, and high character,” Brown said. “I feel tremendously confident and proud of the fact that the people we brought in are our type of people.”

More on the Sixers