The 76ers played the role of Ebenezer Scrooge on draft night, crushing the hopes and dreams of a mother.
It looked like it was going to be a fairy tale for Tyneeha Rivers because she was waiting for the NBA draft results, like any parent; nervous and excited. But Rivers had a particular vantage point. She worked for the Philadelphia 76ers and her son, Mikal Bridges, starred at Villanova and was certain to be taken in the first round. Then something magical happened. The Sixers used the 10th pick in the draft to choose her son.
Rivers was interviewed by ESPN shortly after the pick and said, "It's amazing. It's an experience I'll never forget. I'm so excited he's coming home to be part of our Sixers family. It's amazing."
She ended her interview by shouting, "Go Sixers!"
Unfortunately, midnight came far too quickly for Cinderella, and the Sixers put a quick end to the great story of the hometown hero playing for his mother's team by promptly trading Bridges to the Phoenix Suns for Zhaire Smith (the 16th overall pick) and an unprotected 2021 first round pick.
It may have been inadvertent but what a cruel and horrible ending to a brief but glorious fairytale.
However, sentiment aside, was it the right move for the Sixers? As is often the case, the opinion of the experts is split. Consider Kyle Boone, an analyst from CBS Sports, who tabbed the Sixers as one of the losers on draft night stated:
"The Sixers made the safe — and by my estimation, correct pick — by selecting Mikal Bridges at No. 10 overall. Then they struck a deal with the Suns to trade him for Zhaire Smith, a lesser-polished 3-and-D prospect who is much further away from contributing immediately than Bridges was. Sure, they save money in cap space by moving the 10th pick for the 16th. And the future first-rounder is a decent return. But Bridges' value as a day-one contributor was worth the extra penny in cap space."
Another analyst stated:
"Bridges to the 76ers was perfect. So, of course, it got traded. The Suns traded away Zhaire Smith — a high-upside wing who could grow with the team — and a 2021 first-rounder (via the Heat) for one of the older players in the class. Bridges could help their defense, though. Grade: C-."
But, on the other hand, consider this analysis by the Washington Post's sports department:
The Sixers were winners when they drafted Bridges 10th overall, as he could immediately be a productive two-way piece on a team fighting for one of the top spots in the Eastern Conference, but a half hour later, Bridges was sent to Phoenix for the 16th pick (Zhaire Smith) and the Miami Heat's unprotected pick in 2021. It is that unprotected Heat pick that truly makes this a win for Philadelphia. Smith oozes with potential, though it will take time for him to reach it. By getting that unprotected pick — a rarity these days — is the Sixers' long-term thinking move, even as they try to contend for a title.
I'm not as expert as the three analysts I've quoted, but I think it was a bad move for the Sixers to trade Bridges. I understand the value of that unprotected pick, but my gosh, we won't make that pick until after three more seasons. The long-suffering fans just can't be asked to wait that long.