Philadelphia 76ers: 2021 First-round pick from Miami Heat quite valuable

(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers traded Mikal Bridges to the Phoenix Suns for Zhaire Smith and a future 2021 first-round pick that belonged to the Miami Heat on draft night, which is valuable.

As the furor over how the Philadelphia 76ers handled the drafting and subsequent trading of hometown hero Mikal Bridges subsides, it’s time to look at why the trade was such a win for the Sixers.

By sending Bridges to the Phoenix Suns for Zhaire Smith and the Miami Heat’s 2021 first-round draft pick, the Sixers acquired an incredibly valuable piece for the future of the franchise.

I’m not talking about Smith, who could, of course, turn into a better NBA player than Bridges; I’m talking about that Miami draft pick.

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There are a number of reasons the future first-round pick the team acquired is so meaningful. The possibility of using it in a trade as Philadelphia goes “star hunting,” as Brett Brown calls it, meaning this pick it could play a role in landing a big name.

But let’s approach this from another angle. Let’s say the Sixers keep Miami’s 2021 first-round pick. Why should that excite Philadelphia fans?

For starters, the pick is unprotected, meaning it belongs to Philly regardless of where Miami lands in the first round of that draft. There’s no need to hope the Miami performs poorly, but also it could benefit Philadelphia in a big way.

Why is that so good? Well, the 2020–21 Miami squad could do very poorly. Sure, it’s impossible to predict precisely how good a team will be in a few seasons, but there are reasons to believe the Heat won’t end that year hoisting the trophy.

Miami is saddled with large contracts, as Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson, and Goran Dragic are signed for next season while having player options for 2019–20, so all three could, theoretically, play for the Heat until 2020. They’re fine players, but no one in Miami is confusing them for the championship trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.

Then there’s James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk, both of whom are on the books through the 2019–20 season and both of whom have player options for 2020–21. They could don Heat jerseys for the next three seasons.

These contracts limit what Miami can do in free agency over the next couple of years, assuming they can’t find ways to move the players attached to them. Then, when Miami can make big moves, they’re looking at a less-than stellar free agent class, one currently headlined by Al Horford and Kyle Lowry.

On top of that, Miami doesn’t have a lot of draft picks to make over the next two years. They have a first next year and a first the year after. That’s it. Add on the fact that they didn’t have a single pick in this year’s draft, and that’s not a lot of young, developing talent.

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All that is a long way of saying, the 2020–21 Miami Heat could look a lot like the 2017–18 Miami Heat, only older and without Wade’s heroics.

Unless the Sixers use the pick to land someone like Kawhi Leonard, they may just want to hold onto the extra first rounder for now, which isn’t the worst thing in the world either.