76ers

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. 

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Ben Simmons puts on early show, Joel Embiid comes on late as Team LeBron beats Team Giannis in NBA All-Star Game

Ben Simmons puts on early show, Joel Embiid comes on late as Team LeBron beats Team Giannis in NBA All-Star Game

The Sixers were well represented by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons at the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago Sunday.

Ultimately, Team LeBron won a thrilling — well, at least the fourth quarter was — game over Team Giannis, 157-155, on an Anthony Davis free throw. Kawhi Leonard won the newly named Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP Award scoring a game-high 30 points.

Embiid, playing without the splint on his left hand for the first time since having surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left ring finger, got Team Giannis on the board with an early dunk.

Then Simmons put on a show.

Simmons had 10 points, three rebounds and three assists in the first half.

The NBA decided to break away from its traditional game format, making each quarter its own mini-game. That means each period had its own tip-off.

And would you look at who was squaring off to start the second.

(Simmons won the tip, by the way)

Not to be outdone, Embiid had a couple fancy dunks of his own as Team Giannis built a lead in the third.

Simmons also had this beauty of a put-back dunk for good measure.

He took a spill at the end but appeared no worse for wear for the rest of the game.

Another wrinkle in the new format this year is that the fourth quarter wasn’t timed, and the teams played to a “target score.” In honor of Kobe Bryant, the “target score” was 157 — 24 more points than what Team Giannis, who was in the lead, had total heading into the fourth quarter.

With Team Giannis nearing that point total, Embiid made his presence felt down the stretch, including dropping this nasty Dream Shake on LeBron James.

Both Embiid (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Simmons (17 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals) showed why they were selected for the game.

They’ll return to the court for the Sixers Thursday against the Nets at the Wells Fargo Center.

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Sixers Talk podcast: Are the Sixers still a Finals contender?

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Sixers Talk podcast: Are the Sixers still a Finals contender?

The Sixers are off to a solid start for any team, but the Sixers were built to be a championship contender. Danny Pommells and Anthony Gilbert discuss that and who will take up the open role in the starting lineup on this edition of Sixers Talk, presented by Wilmington University.

• Are the Sixers still a Finals contender? (2:00)

• Who will move into the starters lineup in place of Al Horford? (6:34)

• Did the Sixers miss on the trade deadline? (10:31)

• This team lacks veteran leadership (20:42)

• Story time with Anthony Gilbert (29:03)

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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