LeBron James

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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Philly fans continue to court LeBron James with airplanes over NBA Draft

Philly fans continue to court LeBron James with airplanes over NBA Draft

Billboards are so last season.

It's 2018 after all so if you want to get LeBron James' attention you need to take your courting game to new heights and that's exactly what one contingent of Sixers fans did today.

With the NBA Draft taking place up in Brooklyn, New York this evening some intrepid group of Philly fans hired not one, not two, but three airplanes carrying banners all related to #PhillyWantsLeBron.

The first banner has the No. 23 with a little king crown over it, followed by a plus sign and an emoji of the liberty bell, with that all adding up to a goat emoji (greatest of all time). The second banner says "strive for goatness" and the third features the #PhillyWantsLeBron hashtag.

You can watch our video of those three planes flying in Brooklyn above.

They appear to be quite similar to billboards that popped up in Cleveland last season which were paid for by a Philly area company called Power Home Remodeling. That company posted the below video to its YouTube account this afternoon.

LeBron responded to those back in February and called them "very flattering" and the fact that other cities wanting him to play there is "dope."

As of June 21, the Sixers are still the second-favorite to land LeBron at +450 but the Lakers are a very heavy favorite at -150. Those numbers are according to BetOnline. Cleveland (+500), Boston (+700), and Houston (+800) round out the top five destinations for King James.

7 things to know about the Sixers a week before 2018 NBA draft

7 things to know about the Sixers a week before 2018 NBA draft

We’re officially seven days out from the 2018 NBA draft.

As things heat up leading to draft night, we look at seven things you need to know regarding the Sixers before the event.

1. So many selections
The Sixers will be pretty busy on draft night. They have six total picks with two in the first round and four second-rounders.

Get up to speed on all of the Sixers’ slots and what teams they will have to jockey with in the lottery.

2. Take your pick
Well, who exactly do the Sixers have their eyes on in the draft? 

They have been rolling prospects into their training complex over the past week. With that said, one familiar face thinks he’s the “perfect fit” for the team. Meanwhile, a pair of lottery locks brought “tremendous spirit” to their workout for the for the organization.

3. The man for the job
In case you’ve been living in outer space for the past few weeks, you know by now that Brett Brown will be the man running the show come draft night after former Sixers president Bryan Colangelo resigned.

If anyone has proven they can adapt under tough circumstances and still represent the franchise in a positive light, it’s Brown.

4. Lending a helping hand
Brown will have plenty of support during the draft, mainly from Sixers vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley and vice president of basketball operations and chief of staff Ned Cohen.

But they’ll also have a new face in the building that knows a thing or two about talented players.

5. Keeping their eyes open
The Sixers will be locked in while making their selections, but there will also be plenty of outside attention on their decisions

That will come from the potential candidates to take over the front office.

6. Just an appetizer
While draft night will be big for the Sixers, it’s just setting the scene for a short time later when free agency gets underway. 

Of course, the big fish is LeBron James. Sixers players have started making their pitch and even some other Philadelphia sports stars have joined in on the recruiting act.

Although, not everyone is ready to let James take over their summer.

Still, a trade — perhaps for another one of the game’s best players — might shake everything up just the same.

7. Summer school
Once the draft and free agency dust settles, the only thing left will be for the fresh picks to take the court in Las Vegas.

The Sixers tip off their slate in the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League on July 6 against the rival Celtics.

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