76ers

Give Brett Brown, Sixers credit for not playing NBA draft safe

Give Brett Brown, Sixers credit for not playing NBA draft safe

The Sixers had every reason to play it safe.

Selecting in the lottery without an actual general manager in the war room to make the tough, bold decisions and two franchise players already in place, not many would’ve rolled their eyes if Brett Brown and company simply sat at No. 10 and took a safe prospect that would fit and contribute right away.

At first, that’s exactly what it appeared they had done.

Mikal Bridges, who didn’t even look like he’d last until No. 10 a few weeks ago, fell right into the Sixers’ lap. And despite reportedly having discussions about taking high-risk/high-reward wing Michael Porter Jr., the Sixers ultimately selected the safest prospect and best fit on the board in Bridges.

But as the Malvern, Pennsylvania, native was making his media rounds wearing a Sixers hat and talking about continuing his basketball career in the Philadelphia area, Brown and the Sixers' front office didn't stop working the phones (see video). And just before the Suns were about to select fellow Villanova Wildcat Donte DiVincenzo No. 16 overall, the Sixers were faced with an offer they couldn’t refuse. 

Bridges was shipped out to Phoenix in exchange for Zhaire Smith out of Texas Tech, who the Suns took at 16, and an unprotected 2021 Miami Heat first-round pick. Less than an hour after selecting a hometown kid whose mom worked for the team and could contribute to winning basketball from Day 1 as a three-and-D wing, the Sixers traded him for a raw, freakishly-athletic guard who attempted just 40 threes in college and a future first-rounder.

Look, this move was obviously surprising and sprinkled with some bad optics. There were rumors all week leading up to the draft that the Sixers had interest in trading up into the top five, but it just seemed unlikely they’d make that drastic a move for a prospect, especially without a GM in place. That narrative felt legitimized when the Sixers wound up staying at 10 and selecting a high-floor/low-ceiling player. And that’s what made flipping Bridges six picks later for a raw player like Smith and a future pick so surprising. It was an abrupt shift from a win-now move to a long-term, upside play.

But after the initial shock (and awkwardness of Bridges’ Philadelphia professional sports career not even lasting as long as Frank Gore’s) of the trade wore off, it was hard not to be impressed with the value that the Sixers came away with. Brown told reporters that Bridges was their “1A” and Smith their “1B.” If that’s indeed so, the Sixers got one of the top two players on their board, at least at the time of making their pick at 10, and added a potentially super-valuable pick in the process. Put aside how perfect a fit Bridges would’ve been or how concerning Smith’s shot is, that’s a great value deal in a vacuum.

Is it a sure thing that pick even lands in the lottery? Of course not. But the Heat’s pick was slated 16th this year and they’re projected to be over the cap for the next two seasons. Then, the only players currently under contract for the 2020-21 season are James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo for a total of $23 million. While they have a ton of projected cap space to still improve their roster in the 2020 offseason, that’s not too bad of a current outlook for the pick.

And there’s certainly risk in swapping out Bridges for Smith as well. For starters, it’s not a reach to say it probably makes the Sixers worse in the immediate. And if Smith’s three-point shot doesn’t develop, it’s hard to see how he fits with Ben Simmons and the Sixers long-term, whereas Bridges would've been a perfect complementary player.

But the reason you make this deal is for the upside. Smith has a ways to go to be more than just a slasher in a half-court offense, but if he can improve his shot, which Brown seemed optimistic about, and handle he’ll become a dynamic two-way player. And remember, the Sixers surrendered an unprotected 2019 Sacramento Kings pick (which still conveys to the Sixers if it lands at No. 1) in the Markelle Fultz trade. While the Heat pick they acquired isn’t currently as valuable as the Kings pick, it gives them a future asset that could bolster their trade package for a star or just be used to draft a cost-controlled player in 2021, when the one-and-done rule could be abolished.

There’s no crowing a winner of this trade at the moment, that won’t come for a few years down the line when the actual value of the three assets in this trade is actualized. But give credit where credit is due to Brown, who is wearing two hats all of the sudden during the franchise’s most important offseason of this century and isn't shying away from it. A concern with coaches also acting as general managers is whether they're able to keep their natural desire as a coach to win in the now out of their executive decisions. 

Making his first major transactions as interim general manager Thursday night, Brown rightfully left his coach’s hat at home.

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Sixers postpone Blue-White scrimmage

Sixers postpone Blue-White scrimmage

Sixers fans will have to wait a little longer to see Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons' retooled shots, Joel Embiid's "bully ball" in the post, and all the storylines they were hoping to watch at Tuesday's Blue-White scrimmage. 

The Sixers have postponed Tuesday's scrimmage at the Palestra due to "weather-related issues that have impacted the arena." 

There were issues due to humidity and moisture on the floor.

With heavy rain in the Philadelphia area, the team said it decided to postpone the event due to "an abundance of caution for player safety."

The scrimmage will be rescheduled for a later date.

The team is set to open its preseason slate on Friday at Wells Fargo Center against Melbourne United.

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Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Joel Embiid rests; Landry Shamet learns from JJ Redick

ap_landry_shamet_sixers.jpg
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Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Joel Embiid rests; Landry Shamet learns from JJ Redick

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid sat out the Sixers’ practice on Monday. In past years, that would be a cause for grave concern and frantic speculation.

This season, there’s no reason to read too much into it. Monday was simply a “load management” day for Embiid ahead of the team’s Blue-White scrimmage Tuesday night at the Palestra (7 p.m., NBCSP).

“We had two great days and [Tuesday] he’ll come in, and it’s sort of a game day for us,” head coach Brett Brown said. “We’ll come in, have a shootaround, then go to the Palestra and play in front of a fantastic crowd. We just felt like it would be good to let him have [Monday] to rest and we’ll jump back into it [Tuesday.]”

It wasn’t an entirely idle day for Embiid, however, who worked on his game after practice.

The Sixers will throw in a rest day for Embiid here and there, but he’s unrestricted for the first time in his career (see story).

Learning from the best 
After each day of training camp, rookie Landry Shamet and JJ Redick have been taking corner threes, shot-faking and pulling up, launching floaters — fine-tuning the skills shooters need to thrive in the NBA.

Shamet said he’s already picked up a lot from Redick, who is entering his 13th season in the NBA. Redick has made 1,464 three-point shots in his career, 30th most in NBA history. He’s a career 41.5 percent three-point shooter.

“He’s one of the best shooters, when you look back on it, in NBA history,” Shamet said. “I just try to take little bits and pieces of how he gets open, because he’s not the biggest guy, especially in the NBA. He’s really good with his feet, with his hands, knowing how to create space. So even when I’m guarding him, I’m picking things up on what he does to me and how he gets open.” 

Quotables
“Just not worrying about what people say. Not worrying about what the media says, fans. At the end of the day, this is his job. He loves playing ball. We all love what we do, so we can’t worry about what [the media] says or what the fans say or what people are saying on the internet — it doesn’t matter. He’s a great player and he wants to work hard. He knows greatness doesn’t take a week or a month or a year, it takes a long period of time.”

-Ben Simmons on the confidence he’s seen from Markelle Fultz 

“We obviously want him to get inside; he’s as good as anybody in the NBA. But to feel like that’s the only thing he can do is really naïve and I don’t think great coaching. So me coaching, it’s getting that balance of post up, post up, post up, dunk, dunk, dunk vs. he’s trailing in and nobody’s guarding him, shoot some threes and space him in corners as we put Markelle in a pick-and-roll. That interests me. As I said, so much of Joel’s interesting situation is he’s good at a lot. He really is skillful and has the ability to score in a lot of different ways.”

-Brett Brown on why he still wants Joel Embiid to shoot a good number of three-pointers 

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