Mikal Bridges was a 76er for less than an hour before being traded to Phoenix for Zhaire Smith and a 2021 unprotected first-round pick.
Whether it’s a good move for the Sixers, we’ll have to wait and see. As far as a fit with the Sixers, let’s take a look at some of the similarities and differences between the two.
While Bridges has more of a sample size, taking 239 three-pointers to Smith’s 40 attempts last season, Smith had the better shooting percentage. He said the Sixers front office asked him why his three-point attempts were low in his lone season at Texas Tech.
“They asked me why I didn’t shoot a lot,” Smith said in a conference call. “I couldn’t because I played the four, really, and I couldn’t take many.”
Smith shot 55.6 percent from the field while hitting 45 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. The difference in percentage isn’t huge — Bridges was 51.4 percent overall and 43.5 from three with Villanova last year. Shooting was probably the biggest concern for Smith, since he took such a small number of three-pointers last season. But in his second predraft workout with the Sixers, he felt more comfortable and said that he shot the ball well. It’s an indication that some familiarity with a system means that he will be comfortable taking more long-range shots.
“He shot, we loved his character, and we loved his athleticism,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said of Smith’s second workout with the Sixers.
Bridges was largely considered to be one of the most defensively versatile lottery picks Thursday, but one thing that Smith has on his side is his body and athleticism. Though he is two inches shorter than Bridges, Smith at 6-foot-5 is one of the strongest and most athletically gifted guards coming out of the draft. His build likely makes him a better fit to switch from two to three on the defensive end. Smith has a 6-9 wingspan and weighs 195 pounds. Bridges, a more lengthy option, did raise questions about whether or not his slimmer frame was ready to handle switching onto some of the NBA’s larger wing players.
“… He has a foundation that is incredibly unique in relation to his athleticism,” Brown said of why he had Smith as the Sixers’ 1-B option behind Bridges.
There’s no doubt that Bridges has the edge in this department. Not only does his mother work for the Sixers, but he is a Villanova product and a native of the area, making Philadelphia the ideal landing spot for him. But that doesn’t mean Smith will have a hard time fitting in. Smith likes to run fast and play defense, and those traits are likely what gave Smith a chance to show off his skills for the Sixers twice. Brown made an impression on Smith, telling him that he reminded the former Spurs assistant of Kawhi Leonard in their discussion last week.
>> READ MORE: What they’re saying about the Bridges-Smith trade
Brown’s familiarity with developing players also plays into this decision. Brown sees a lot of potential to work with in Smith, and Smith said that Brown is confident he can help the rookie transition into more of a shooting guard role that will allow him to have a successful NBA career.r