Philadelphia 76ers: Thoughts behind Mikal Bridges trade to Phoenix Suns

(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

It appeared former Villanova star Mikal Bridges was headed to the Philadelphia 76ers until a trade sent him out west to the Phoenix Suns. What does all this mean?

It seemed like a perfect story for the Philadelphia 76ers and Mikal Bridges to a point that it could have been a movie. Not only did Bridges grow up 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia, but he played college basketball at nearby Villanova and seemed like a lock to stay local and play for his hometown NBA team.

To add the cherry on top to all of this, Bridges’ mom, Tyneeha Rivers, works for the Sixers in their HR department. Bridges and the Sixers seemed like a match made in heaven, and for about 20 minutes on Thursday night, the family’s dream came true since he was staying in his hometown to play for the 76ers.

Later on as Bridges sat at the podium, a large smile cracked on his face, fielding questions from reporters without him knowing that news was leaking about a possible trade that would send him 3,000 miles west to be a member of the Phoenix Suns.

Related Story: 3 takeaways for Sixers from 2018 NBA Draft

Not long after, the news was confirmed by a familiar source that most basketball fans refer to as a “Woj Bomb” from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

It seemed like a kick in the gut for not just Bridges, but the entire Sixers fan base in general. To say the reaction to the trade was a negative one would be an understatement since Philadelphia fans all over Twitter were appalled by the first major move made by general manager Brett Brown.

The perfect story’s epilogue took a negative turn as the local superstar was not going to be playing for his local team, and the player all the fans wanted was not going to be sporting the Sixers red, white, and blue.

But now, putting the fan’s emotions aside, this was actually a very good trade for the Sixers, as this deal would have made former general manager Sam Hinkie very proud. Putting that aside though, the Sixers got a player in Zhaire Smith, who showed at Texas Tech he be an elite shooter as well as an elite defender while leading the Red Raiders to the Elite 8. At 19-years-old, Smith has a ton of upside and should be a good addition, assuming Philadelphia ends up keeping him.

In addition to receiving Smith, the Sixers also gained a 2021 first-round pick from the Miami Heat, which more importantly is unprotected, meaning that the Sixers get the pick no matter where it ends up. Being unprotected is the most valuable asset Philadelphia picked up last night and is the reason why they ended up trading Bridges.

When asked about all of this after the draft last night, Brown made it very clear in what his thinking was behind this trade. In Brown’s words, the team is “star hunting” this offseason and believes the 2021 pick is an extremely valuable asset.

More from Section 215

With Kawhi Leonard wanting out of San Antonio and considering Brown`s ties to Leonard and the Spurs, could the Sixers be loading up for a potential trade? Leonard would definitely be the “star” that Philadelphia seems to be hunting for.

But what if Leonard doesn’t want to commit to playing in Philadelphia long-term, or the Sixers strikeout this summer in landing a superstar? Well, the beauty of that 2021 first-round pick is that the Sixers are not forced to use it this summer, and can hold onto it as a trade chip over the next few years.

Hypothetically, let’s say the Sixers do not trade the pick for a star this summer, but do end up signing LeBron James, Paul George or another superstar down the road. That 2021 pick could still be extremely valuable, and here is why.

The Sixers already have a lot of money invested into Joel Embiid and are going to have to pay Ben Simmons sooner rather than later. If you combine those two with how much Philadelphia is going to have to pay a potential superstar this summer or down the road, the Sixers are going to be tight against the cap in a few years.

If the Sixers hold onto that 2021 pick and use it, it will give them an opportunity to add a potentially very good player to surround their core and do it at a cheaper price.

So as we have come accustomed to over the years, draft night and the surrounding days were extremely crazy. And even though the Sixers are not at the top of the draft anymore, they are still going to try to make deals while accumulating assets to keep the future in mind.

It may have been tough to see a fan favorite such as Bridges be dealt minutes after being drafted, but in the long run, the Sixers made a deal that should help them out down the road while still getting a player they like a lot in Smith.

As we have learned, Philadelphia is trying to win now, but at the same time keep the future in mind and not do anything that will hurt the team down the road. It appears the Sixers are setup to possibly surround Simmons and Embiid with another superstar while still being in good shape for the future. As a Sixers fan, that is all you can ask for.