3. Trading Mikal Bridges
Sixers fans had to know this one was coming. Of all the mistakes made, this one is the most painful, even if it is not the most destructive.
Shortly after Burnergate, the Sixers were left without any leadership in the front office. The infamous collaboration of Brett Brown, Elton Brand, ownership, and other executives were in charge of the draft this year. With the instability at the top, the results went as expected: disastrous.
The Sixers did not just trade the pick that ended up being Villanova’s own Mikal Bridges, they actually had him. Shortly after taking him, he was traded to the Suns for Zhaire Smith and the Miami Heat’s 2021 unprotected first-round pick.
Mikal Bridges was not just a hometown selection.
He had one of the highest floors in that draft and was so clearly a stellar role-player at the next level. Bridges has developed into an all-defensive team player with remarkable durability and has even developed creation skills as he has transitioned into a new role with the Nets. He fits one of the most valuable archetypes in the league with his combination of size, skill, and athleticism. The Sixers had him and gave him away.
Zhaire Smith was an interesting prospect coming out of Texas Tech. Like most young Sixers, Smith struggled with his shooting ability. Despite a good three-point percentage in college, he was very hesitant to shoot with his clunky mechanics. He was essentially used as a six-foot-three center, but there was hope that he would transition into a wing at the next level with his explosive athleticism and defensive prowess.
Smith got off to a rocky start, to say the least. Before the season started, Smith needed surgery for a foot fracture. Shortly after the surgery, Smith suffered from a very serious sesame allergy that derailed his entire season. He was already an extremely raw prospect, and it became clear that Smith’s career would never be the same. He quickly disappeared from the league following the Sixers trading him for Tony Bradley.
What about that first-round pick?
Well, that was included in the Tobias Harris trade that should have never happened.
In the Sixers’ defense, they were star-hunting at this time. The best way to get stars is to trade unprotected picks. The Sixers viewed Smith as a comparable prospect to Bridges so it was hard for them to pass up on the additional pick. Miami was also trending downward at the time. Ironically, it was the Sixers trading them Jimmy Butler in the sign-and-trade that led to their ascension.
That is the defense of the trade, but it was still an unnecessary, gutsy call at the time that infuriated Sixers fans. The front office overthought it and it cost them for years to come.