SIXERS

NBA Finals are highlighting one of Sixers' biggest misses

SIXERS

Mikal Bridges is having a moment, and it hurts.

The Philly native and national title-winning Villanova alum is carving it up for the Suns in the NBA Finals in his third season in the NBA, and Sixers fans all across the Delaware Valley are staring at their television screens wondering what could've been.

Here's what Bridges dropped in Thursday night's Game 2:

He's just a perfect role player in the 2021 NBA, and the Sixers traded him on draft night in 2018 for Zhaire Smith. Smith is no longer a Sixer and is currently a G-League player. Neat.

Now, would Bridges fix everything that ails the Sixers? Of course not. But he's certainly the kind of guy you'd love to have on your team, while Smith isn't helping the organization in any way.

And the Sixers did acquire a pick in that trade that helped them deal for Tobias Harris - a very good player and a fan favorite, albeit one of the pricier non-All Stars in the league.

It's also important to remember, before we go down this path, that Smith's failure to pan out in the NBA isn't solely his fault. His first year in as an NBA player was an unforeseeable and often harrowing journey:

"With Smith down 35 or so pounds and out of the hospital after a terrifying allergic reaction, he went in the gym, away from curious eyes, and put up shots with tubes in his stomach."

 

That's not going to help anyone's on-court development, and it's awesome that Smith is back to a point in his career - and his life - where he can play basketball professionally again.

But the fact of the matter is the Sixers' decision-makers decided to pass on a three-and-D guy with length who couldn't have been a better fit on both ends of the floor. Some might make the argument that the Sixers made the Smith vs. Bridges decision months before trading Robert Covington, not after, and the two were way too similar on the floor. 

But outside of teams normally drafting the best player available rather than drafting for fit when you have the No. 10 overall pick, there's also the fact that in a league where shooting reigns supreme, taking a guy who can shoot lights out and trading him for someone who never had a reliable jumper at any point is a questionable decision at best. 

Smith's upside was his athleticism and his defense, but Bridges is also a sturdy defender, and he certainly hasn't lacked for athleticism in the NBA while showing an innate basketball sense that you can't teach.

Having someone like Bridges in tow would make 34-year-old Danny Green a luxury rather than a necessity, both this past year and next year. The two have plenty of overlap in their games, and if Bridges was a Sixer the team could avoid paying a guy entering his 13th year more than $13 million for another season.

Instead, we'll all watch as Bridges makes the entire area proud - and jealous - and makes the Suns better on both ends of the floor.

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