Directly from the Sixers:
On the decision to trade Mikal Bridges for Zhaire Smith and the 2021 NBA Draft 1st overall pick:
It starts out with just tremendous excitement. When this is my 18th year in the NBA and when you sit there and you watch a draft board play out and on our notes, on our big board, we had 1A and 1B and when the 9th pick was selected you realize, we’re going to get one of our two, and we chose Mikal [Bridges]. And to see that play out knowing the history that he has had in this city and at Villanova, it was very much aligned and he was somebody that could come in a fit with what we had. And so it goes from that level of excitement in the extreme coincidence, given his history in this city, to a situation in between that the phones were active and we knocked back an incredible deal where we would lose him. We didn’t rate it to be a Godfather type of deal, something that really would impact the franchise to the level that it would have to in order to trade Mikal, who we valued very much. And then Phoenix came in and offered a 2021 unprotected plus our 1B in Zhaire [Smith], who we value very highly, and you’re in a position that you’re on the clock and you really have a decision to make. And for me, and all of us in that room, what also rules our day is a few things. First— and in this order—what is always best for the organization, I’m going into my sixth season with the Philadelphia 76ers and so what is best for the organization and how do you win a championship, how do you acquire things that can attract stars or develop stars? That pick might be the key to all of this, that pick might be the thing that links a possible trade, and we have our 1B in Zhaire and they’re very different, there are very different stages and so you ask a very open question and all of those emotions and all of those facts happened in a 20-25 minutes window, very different emotions, very different set of circumstances that resulted in the trade of Mikal.
On how to look at his role in the trade:
Completely, because I live in this city with you all. I watch Villanova, I love his mom, I love his college coach. There’s a human side to this that is kind of really hard to explain. And we all, I’m assuming, go from this level of excitement and coincidence, you can’t make this up, to something as a group, we sit there and we feel off this and again one we knocked back, it was a great opportunity, really a great opportunity and then there it is. There’s this thing that involves our 1B it wasn’t like it involved another player it was our 1B who we had targeted and brought back twice and studies the things that we felt he could improve on to really be quite different in the NBA, because of his incredible character and athleticism and toughness and then there’s a 2021 pick and we all understand that that could be the year that high school people are allowed into the NBA and that is far out and it also could be the thing. As I said to Marshall that could be the thing that flips it with us having more assets to enhance a realistic trade for a star we are star hunting or we are star developing that how you win a championship and the emotion of what we have all been through is painful but as I said at the start, what’s best for the organization and how do you win a championship and since I’ve looked at you all I haven’t pivoted out of that once. So the torment of trying to do my job in the very limited role for a moment I have as the general manager versus the role I have as the head coach of this program, it a toggle and this is where we arrived.
On who has final decision on trade executions:
I was the one that approved the final decision. We have many people in that room that are aggressively speaking to people and we acquire information, we put it on a board, and we discuss it. At the end of the day, Josh [Harris] looked at me and I did what I did, we approved the deal. I approved the deal.
On what he saw in Zhaire Smith that made him the ‘1B’:
The fact that he has a foundation that is incredibly unique in his relation to his athleticism. The foundation that he has in his character, the foundation that he has in his defense, the incredible growth that we are seeing in his shot. His ability to create his own shot. There is no mystery of how we want to play here in Philadelphia, nor is there no mystery on the direction our sport is growing. When you weigh it all out, and I anointed him ‘1B’, it’s really an incredible situation that we had to navigate through once we got that offer. So as we judged Zhaire, we saw a person, we saw a player, we saw a place that we need to develop him, to grow him and take him. We believe entirely in time he has the ability to be incredibly unique, maybe even great. So I think so that the city and you all hear me say, Mikal Bridges would have come in and slotted in and played right away. Zhaire is going to be fighting for some minutes and we’re going to develop him and we are excited to do that and he may jump into this thing in a quicker way. We all understand the reality and the history of what 10th player chosen do really to the NBA and coming in and playing minutes. It’s rare that a 10th pick comes in and plays, even on poor teams. We believe we are going to take Zhaire and put him into our development system and polish up all of those things and we are excited. The city of Philadelphia is going to love him because of his complete competitiveness, his athleticism and his toughness. He is bred for the city of Philadelphia.
On adding to his asset portfolio in case of a trade prior to the draft:
We talked about it all the time and it always comes back to what you hear us say all the time ‘how do you get a star?’ You’re going to need assets, we understand that. If you’re going to go out into a trade, they’re going to look at what you have and the more good things we have obviously the better off we can attract the stars that we all know are out there. So we talked about it, did we hunt it? Did we seek it? No. Had this opportunity not come up, we would have been thrilled to move on as our draft reflected and the selection reflected and so we did talk about it to actively pursue it. That was not on the cards, it happened organically, it wasn’t something that we sought. They chased us and they chased us hard and obviously, the rewards and assets that they gave up were something that was hard for us to backpedal from.
On how Zhaire Smith’s second workout impacted the decision:
His shot, we loved his character, we loved his athleticism, now it’s going to be like, ‘How do you predict and project his shot?’ ‘How does that transfer to the NBA three-point line?’ With the measurements and the drills and the metrics when you really studied it, we see upward trends that suggest he is going to be just fine. He is going to take the athleticism and combine the toughness, now you’ve got sort of that illusive three-and-D player that also can create his own shot. I think all of us, you hear that terminology ‘three-and-D’ and it requires more nowadays. You’re going to have to do stuff off a live ball, you’re going to have to do stuff off a catch go. It’s not just I can guard my man and I can make a three, it’s deeper than that nowadays. The growth of Zhaire as it relates to the future of our sport and how we want to play you can see it. You can see it in his workouts, you can see it in portions of his college career, and we felt strong enough to anoint him ‘1B’ and he really made us think a lot in the second workout because he was we think good in that time frame.