NEW YORK — Mikal Bridges was staying home … or so he thought.
The 76ers selected the Villanova and Great Valley High School product with the No. 10 pick in the NBA draft Thursday night at the Barclays Center. And he couldn’t have been happier.
But 38 minutes later, the Sixers traded him to the Phoenix Suns for Zhaire Smith, the 16th overall pick. The Sixers also received the Miami Heat’s 2021 first-round pick in the trade. The Sixers were always interested in Smith, just not at No. 10.
With the 26th pick, they took point guard Landry Shamet out of Wichita State. In the second round, the Sixers traded their 38th pick (Khyri Thomas) to the Detroit Pistons for two future second round picks. They traded their 39th pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for a 2019 second-rounder and cash Wednesday night. And the Sixers concluded the draft by acquiring the 54th pick from the Dallas Mavericks in exchange picks Nos. 56 and 60. They used the pick to select former SMU combo guard Shake Milton.
Yet, their first-round trade was a move that shocked the Philly fan base as well as Bridges, who was donning a Sixers hat and answering question about being a Sixer as the trade went down. However, Smith was far from shocked. Right before the 16th pick, his agent informed Smith he would be drafted by the Suns and traded to the Sixers.
“They run in transition, I feel like I can be a part of that,” Smith said of fitting in with the Sixers. “Ben Simmons, he can bring it up. He makes good passes and I’m a good cutter. So he can make me look good.”
The 6-foot-4 shooting guard averaged 11.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals this past season at Texas Tech. He was named to the all-Big 12 newcomer team and to the conference’s all-defensive team.
The Sixers had Smith in for workouts twice during the predraft process. His quickness was on full display in his first workout on June 12, as defenders had a tough time staying in front of him. He improved his shooting Tuesday during his second workout. Smith displayed his trademark defense in both workouts.
“He was just comparing me to [San Antonio Spurs two-time all-star] Kawhi Leonard,” Smith said of the feedback he received from Sixers coach and interim general manager Brett Brown, a former Spurs assistant.
“He was like, ‘I really like your game. It’s really interesting,’ ” Smith added of Brown. “He was like curious. He was like we are going to make something happen. Apparently he did.”
The native of Garland, Texas, went from being a three-star college prospect heading into Texas Tech to being the 16th overall pick in one year.
Smith said he worked on his game “three to four times” a day during his lone year at Texas Tech to become a draft prospect. He was told he could become a lottery pick at the beginning of his college season.
“When I first worked out with Texas Tech, teammates saw it and Coach [Chris Beard] even saw it,” Smith said. “He was like, ‘Wow, you can be one-and-done if you just keep it up.’ I wasn’t paying attention. But I felt it during the middle of the season, late.”
Meanwhile, the 6-7, 210-pound Bridges is very familiar with the organization.
Bridges’ mother, Tyneeha Rivers, is a global vice president of human resources at Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which Sixers owner Josh Harris co-owns. Her office, in fact, is in the complex in Camden where the Sixers practice and where Bridges worked out earlier this month.
“She’s probably more excited than I am,” Bridges said of his mother when he believed he was a Sixer during his initial press conference. “She was about to cry and all that. She said she didn’t want to ruin her makeup, so she’d try to hold it in. But no, she’s very excited.
“I’m her only son. I’m a little mama’s boy. Her son is right there around the corner again [at the Sixers facility], and it’s just really cool.”
But the joy the family displayed in the green room once he was drafted turned to shock and disappointment once word circulated that he was traded.
Bridges took a long time to return to the awaiting Philadelphia media for a second interview after the trade. Once he did, Bridges tried to put on a good face.
“No, there’s no disappointment,” Bridges said. “It’s a business and I’m excited to go to Phoenix.”
The 6-5, 190-pound Shamet has terrific size and length for a point guard, with a 7-0 wingspan. His length and tenacity made him a pesky defender in coach Gregg Marshall’s system. He shot 44.3 percent from three with a high basketball IQ and is excellent in pick-and-roll situations.
However, the Sixers are now crowded at the point-guard position with Simmons, Markelle Fultz, T.J. McConnell and Shamet. The team usually limits its roster to three point guards.
“They didn’t say anything about being stashed overseas,” Shamet said of his conversations with the Sixers during his workout. “We didn’t talk in depth about, if you come here you’re going to play X games in the [NBA] G-League or whatever. It’s obviously going to be a conversation.
“I feel confident that I can come in and contribute early.”
Milton is a creative passer and excels in transition. At 6-6, he has excellent size.
The Sixers finished the regular season 52-30, the franchise’s best record since it went 56-26 in 2000-01. The Sixers finished third in the Eastern Conference and concluded the regular season with 16 straight wins, setting a league record most consecutive victories to end a regular season. They made their first postseason appearance since 2012, losing in five games to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.