So, that’s it. The 2018 NBA Draft is complete and the Sixers have made and traded their picks. There’s a lot to be said for the moves they made and the players they took (and traded). The instant reaction was that they Sixers messed up their draft, but you need to look deeper at what they did and look past the Bridges that were burned.
Mikal Bridges is a Sixer, then he’s not.
It was exciting to see Bridges fall to the Sixers at the 10thpick, but it was initially shocking to see that they shipped him to Phoenix for Zhaire Smith. What really happened to the team between their pick and the Suns at #16? The team had rated Smith just as high on their board as they did Bridges and basically had a coin flip between the two when they were picking. When the Suns, who I’m sure they were talking to prior, went on the board at #16, it’s not hard to see why the Sixers would make the move and trade for him. They picked up an unrestricted first round pick that comes from the Miami Heat. They also got a player that they really wanted. It was a feel-good story for the area of Philadelphia but, in the end, they had to what they felt was best for the team going forward.
Bridges will be a very good professional, but he’s pretty much reached his ceiling and will see only modest improvements during his career. Smith, on the other hand, has a much higher ceiling and also provides an immediate fill on the defensive side that the Sixers lacked last year. Seeing Bridges handle an introductory press conference only to be told that he was traded, immediately after, is tough for the locals to stomach but, it was ultimately, the right move.
Zhaire Smith is a Sun, then he’s not.
I’ve dealt with the immediate local reaction already, so let’s look at what Smith does bring to the Sixers. The trade, itself, brought the Sixers a player that they coveted as well as that unprotected first round pick. But, people need to look at Smith, the player.
He’s 6’5” and 200 lbs. He’s the best athlete in the draft and one of the best defensive players as well. The players that graded out higher than him, defensively, were all center and power forwards that the defensive stats lean toward. But, Smith averages 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks per 40 minutes this past season. He’s a defensive player, with tons of energy and has a good basketball IQ.
He has great anticipation in the passing lanes as well as when players are going up for shots. There is room for shooting improvement given that he only made 45% of his three point attempts this past season. That does sound great, but he only took forty of them for the year. You really would like to see more but he was playing within his system. He can take and make those open looks that area created from a quality point guard, that they Sixers already have.
He moves well all around the court and can defend three positions on the floor. His athleticism is what sets him apart from the rest of the group. He can jump through the roof, gets a good number of put-backs for a guy his size and can finish on any lob thrown his way, including ones that taller players won’t get. The Sixers got a guy that fits their up-tempo style, has a very high ceiling and can lock up players on the defensive end. He won’t be starting but, he will provide great defense and added talent to the second unit this year. This pick, while not popular with the local crowd, is a truly great pick for the Sixers.
Landry Shamet is a Sixer
Leading up to the draft, I had mentioned Shamet as a possible later pick for the Sixers. The guy had first round talent, but he’s had two foot injuries in two years. What the Sixers did was look at need here. They can’t hold on to Ilyasova, Belinelli, and Redick, so they need shooters. What does Shamet do as well as anyone in the draft? Shoot. He can hit from anywhere on the floor and his 44% from three-pointers in his college career shows that he converts at a high rate.
He’s a point guard, but only in the sense that he played the position, whereas now he’s going to be a two. As of now, the Sixers will have Simmons and Fultz handling the point work for the season on the first and second unit. Shamet, while able to play the position, will be asked to be more of a JJ Redick player. They’re similar in size and Shamet is a good athlete.
He doesn’t create a lot for himself as he lacks explosiveness, but he’s very good at coming off screens and hitting shots, which is something the Sixers use a lot of. His defense is good but not great. He could be better, but he’ll have trouble with quicker point guards. He’s exactly what the Sixers needed to get, for a cheap price, to help the team going forward and another solid pick in the draft for the team.
Shake Milton is a Sixer
Milton can make the team this year if he continues his three-point shooting in the preseason. He’s a career 43% shooter from beyond the arc. He’s not a starter and he won’t be, but his length and shooting ability should get him some minutes as a reserve for quite a while in the league. Right now, the Sixers can let Milton develop and learn on the bench. A broken hand towards the end of this past college season caused his stock to drop, but he’s still a good player that will add value and depth to the Sixers as they pretty much got nothing in return from TLC and Kurkmaz.
The trades that made the draft for the Sixers.
Sending Bridges to the Suns was tough, but getting Smith in return was an easy choice, once the Suns added an unprotected first round pick to the deal. Coach Brett Brown had this to say on the move:
“They chased us and they chased us hard and obviously, the rewards and assets that they gave p were something that was hard for us to backpedal from.” T
he Sixers didn’t go out and search to get Smith, but once they were offered that unprotected pick, they felt like it was best for the organization. In the second round they traded all of their picks. The Lakers, Pistons and Mavericks all were in on the Sixers picks. Knowing that the team couldn’t use all of those picks this year, they made the moves to add future assets and keeping with the Process. The Sixers picked up three future second round picks, cash and the important unprotected 2021 first round pick the originally belonged to the Miami Heat. They picked up players that they feel can contribute and brought on future picks to help them continue to draft and develop players. All in all it was a good night for the team.
What the Sixers do going forward is now the biggest question. Brett Brown said that going after a superstar was the next move. It’s the obvious progression for the team in the position they’re in. The only question now is whether that star is LeBron, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard or another playere that they think will fit the team and scheme. LeBron, since 2010 is basically a lock for any team to get to the Finals. George and Leonard could be huge pieces to a team that’s looking for longevity. Only time will tell, but they seem to be in perfect position to make a huge move in free agency this summer and put the team in contention for the NBA title next year and for the foreseeable future.
Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports