“What a joke.”
“Clueless as ever.”
These are just a few of the responses I personally received within an hour after the 76ers’ draft day trade of Mikal Bridges to the Phoenix for Zhaire Smith. A couple of these unsolicited opinions came even before we learned what the pick protections would be on the first-rounder we’d be receiving in return for moving down the draft.
Do we STILL have to be acting like this, Philly fans? We are living in a time where we have more information available to us, yet some within our ranks still make completely emotional responses without hesitation or any semblance of objectivity. We’ve all heard time and time again that there are no more passionate and knowledgeable fans than Philly fans. These types of responses are certainly passionate, but knowledgeable? We hadn’t even gotten the information on what else we would have received in the deal!
During our Philly Influencer Live NBA Draft Show on Thursday night, both Tony Cutillo and I agreed we did not want to take Mikal Bridges with the 10th pick for some basketball and upside issues, but also that we’d want to stay away from the local guy. I loved watching Bridges during his time at Villanova and I believed that he was a deserving lottery pick anywhere between 8th and 14th, certainly in our range. If he was a sure thing, he’d be a top pick as this year there were no “sure things” in the top five, maybe not even in the top three. I believed there was just a little too much provinciality (something we’ve never been accused of) in being absolutely SURE that Bridges was the ONLY choice if he became available in our spot. I would have been fine with that pick, but I would have been equally satisfied if we walked away with Trae Young, Lonnie Walker, Zhaire Smith, or Kevin Knox.
Contrary to some fans’ belief, drafts are impossible to predict and are ALWAYS wrong in hindsight. Teams make their decisions on upside, fit, body type, age, injury history and personality. There is a reason they are constantly referred to as prospects and not players. It was known before the draft that Bridges was indeed very high on the Sixers board; they brought him in for a workout and was frequently mentioned throughout the pre-draft process as someone the Sixers were interested in. Who else does this sound like? Zhaire Smith, who the team actually brought in twice to look at.
Taking into account the Sixers were obviously interested in both prospects and the consensus was that both players were ranked within the same range as the Sixers pick, such an immediate reaction like “pure shit” means that you believe Bridges was the single missing piece available in this draft the Sixers needed to put them over the top next season and beyond, and is light years ahead of Zhaire Smith and that an unprotected future first-rounder’s value does not make up the difference at all between your own values of Smith and Birdges. That’s the ONLY conclusion with a knee-jerk emotional response like that.
It’s certainly fair to think that a 22-year old Bridges will be better than Smith next season or that Smith’s growth over the next three years to his age 22 season won’t be as high as Bridges. Those are all reasonable positions to take. It’s also fair to be disappointed that we won’t watch a local guy who won a national championship help our pro team win as well. Just like every single draft, we can’t judge it with certainty immediately and we’ll probably have to wait a couple of seasons to see how the two prospects play and what the unprotected Miami first-rounder becomes.
For all those that feel that this is “pure shit” because they drafted the local kid you watched for three seasons winning and then traded him an hour or so later, let me ask you this: If they had drafted Miles Bridges there instead of Mikal Bridges and then traded him the same way, would you feel the same way? I’m going to make the assumption that most of those that feel they did Mikal “dirty” wouldn’t feel bad about the trade, but would still feel they did Mikal dirty but not selecting him. I feel bad on a personal level for Mikal and for us, because that would have been fun, but I’d rather my team make the moves for the team they feel is best (#TTP).
I think it’s clear the Sixers valued Bridges higher than Smith, as they selected him when both were available. I think it’s also clear the degree to which they differed in opinion over these two prospects was not by a wide margin. The opportunity to add that unprotected first-rounder and pick up a prospect they really, really liked was just too good to pass up. When noted Process™ haters like The Ringer’s Bill Simmons and Jason Concepcion not only love the player we received in Smith but are also indignant that Phoenix gave up that unprotected pick as well, I think it’s safe to say we got a good deal in the present and have another dreaded “asset” to use to acquire more talent.
So for the sake of everyone’s sanity, can’t we all save the scorching hot takes for the Cowboys and Knicks fans? It’s completely fair to have wanted to keep Bridges and not want to make that trade. It’s fair to want to root for the local kid. It’s also fair to really like the trade and be excited to see not only the player, but what the pick produces as well. It wasn’t a “shit” move. We heard it was a “shit” move when they traded Michael Carter-Williams, who is barely hanging on in the league now. It wasn’t a “shit” move when they traded Elfrid Payton to draft Dario Šarić. Whether we like it or not, we can’t tell who’s going to be right for at least a couple of years, especially when we’re dealing with 19-year-olds.
Let’s keep the passion and add some pragmatic reason to our opinions, shall we? This trade could work out against us if Smith flames out and Bridges is the second-coming of Paul George. This trade could also be considered a fleecing if Smith turns into a three-point-sniping Patrick Beverly and the pick gets used to trade for All-Star talent. We will just have to wait and see. But let’s forget about the flaming hot takes without any sort of objectivity. Otherwise we’ll always be miserable, just like Cowboys and Knicks fans. Nobody wants to see that.