Sixers — 5 Things We Learned From the NBA Draft

1. A Kawhi Leonard trade is still on the table

This is probably the most exciting revelation from last night’s chain of events. The trade that Brett Brown & company pulled off was textbook asset-accumulation that surely made Sam Hinkie proud.

While the team’s war chest of assets to trade for Kawhi was deep before—Saric, Fultz, Covington, #10—adding that 2021 unprotected first round pick gives the front office a bargaining chip that could be more valuable than any of them.

Prior to last night, any deal for Kawhi would have (likely) seen both Saric and Fultz shipped to the Spurs, and that understandably left many fans uneasy—myself included. Through last night’s trade, the GM-by-committee made it possible for a Kawhi deal to happen where we could theoretically keep two of Saric, Covington, and Fultz—something that wasn’t possible pre-draft.

Any trade proposal moving forward will be centered on that unprotected 2021 first rounder, Zhaire Smith, some combination of Saric/Fultz, and possibly Covington as a sweetener. Compare these two offers:

  1. Dario Saric, Markelle Fultz, & 2018 1st rounder (10th overall)
  2. Dario OR Fultz, Zhaire Smith, an unprotected 2021 1st rounder from Miami

Depending on how you value Fultz & Saric, and your belief on how that 2021 pick will convey, you can argue for either package. But it’s hard to argue that they don’t have similar value. Regardless of your perception of Smith as a prospect, Brett Brown and the rest of the front office quite literally made something out of nothing.

Leading into the draft, it felt like Kawhi to the Lakers was a done deal, as it had gained momentum all week. Personally, I had already come to terms with the reality of Kawhi being dealt to LA. But this trade has, at least momentarily, re-kindled hope amongst Sixer fans that the former Finals MVP will be dealt to Philadelphia. If you’re still mad about trading Mikal Bridges, here’s your silver lining.

2. JJ Redick will likely be re-signed

I always thought it was likely for Redick to re-sign as it was, but adding Bridges’ NBA-ready-jumper would have given the Sixers an opening to move on if the money didn’t work out. Mikal would have been capable of filling Redick’s role immediately.

By picking a developmental project—yes, Smith is a project—the Sixers will almost certainly bring back JJ. This roster badly needs floor spacers as it is, unless they add one in free agency (which is possible) there’s no way they’ll let their only reliable three point shooter walk this offseason.

I preferred to bring back Redick even in the event that we drafted Bridges—the offensive burden he carried for us last season would have been too much to put on a rookie, no matter how league-ready he may be. But drafting Zhaire Smith all but guaranteed that we’ll re-sign the 34-year old sharpshooter.

3. The Sixers are (inexplicably) high on Zhaire Smith

Here’s what I said about Smith prior to the draft:

Smith has been rising up draft boards for the past few weeks, and while I like him, I think his original projection as a middle-to-late 1st round pick was spot on.

He wasn’t a highly-regarded prospect coming out of high school, but made a name for himself in the NCAA tournament. He has the same athletic profile as [Lonnie] Walker (6’4’’, 6’10’’ wingspan) and his highlight reel isn’t short on eye-popping dunks.

With that said, the role he played in Texas Tech’s offense doesn’t translate to the NBA whatsoever. He played as a small-ball big in an offense that was led by senior point guard Keenan Evans, and made the most of frequent looks at the rim created more so by the motion offense he played in rather than individual talent.

He wasn’t asked to create much, and he wasn’t all that effective in isolation. While proponents of Smith will point to his 45% shooting from deep, that efficiency came on just 1.1 attempts per game—which is concerning for a player who projects as a shooting guard in the NBA.

What sells me is his ability as a defensive-stopper. He excelled in that role for Tech, and should be able to translate that part of his game to the pro’s with ease…

The problem is, there are plenty of prospects who will be available at 10 who can provide similar defensive-stopper potential while possessing a more projectable offensive game. I like Smith, but he would have been better off staying in college for another season to prove to scouts that he’s worthy of a lottery pick.

In case you can’t tell, I don’t like this pick whatsoever. Smith is nothing short of a project who can’t shoot. He’ll do nothing to contribute offensively as a rookie, and his defensive impact really won’t be anything eye-popping. Obviously his potential is exciting, but in the short term his production won’t be much different from a glorified Justin Anderson or TLC.

It’s truly mind-numbing to see the number of Sixers stans who “love” Smith as a prospect. He’s a highlight reel dunker, and apparently that alone is enough reason for excitement? Smith is a shooting guard who CAN’T SHOOT. He played as a small-ball big in college, and will have a long transition to the NBA. That’s assuming he’s even able to develop into anything more than a “freak athlete” who jumps really high. The number of busts who fit the same profile as Smith outweighs the number of players who have grown into serviceable NBA players.

I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why Smith was rapidly rising up prospect boards before the draft, and sitting here after evaluating his tape further, I still can’t figure it out.

Despite that, Brett Brown didn’t hesitate when he compared Smith to Kawhi Leonard (ironically enough). Although, if you ask me, those comments were made with the full intent of propping up his trade value — let’s hope Popovich watches Brett Brown’s pressers.

4. Shamet should fill a Belinelli role

With their own pick (26th overall) the Sixers added Wichita State marksmen Landry Shamet. Shamet is a dead-eye shooter who is dangerous spotting-up or running around screens. He shot 44% from three in each of his final two seasons in college. While expectations should never be too high for such a late pick, the idea is that he’ll be effective enough to replace the Belinelli role; which is to say, the backup Redick role.

Belinelli was a fan favorite after being added mid-season, but the reality is he’s an atrocity on defense who can easily be replaced offensively. It was never likely that he would return, and the pick of Shamet (and Shake Milton in the second round) all but confirms that.

In a perfect world, Shamet will be able to do all the things that Belinelli was able to and then some. He has solid size for a guard, and his lack of strength is being overblown as a concern. The truth is, he was a solid defensive player for Wichita St. and can’t possibly be any more of a black hole than Marco and JJ have been.

On top of that, he should be more effective when attacking the basket than Belinelli. He won’t be a point guard as a pro but he was asked to fill that role at times in college. He averaged over 5 assists as a junior and always maintained an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5-to-1 throughout his career. Those stats, coupled with a 28% assist percentage as a junior are evidence of his ability to facilitate.

Shamet is by no means a lock to make the roster, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds himself playing 10-16 minutes a night off the bench like Belinelli.

5. The Colangelo Era is dead and gone, as The Process lives on

Any expectation of a quiet draft night as a product of being without a true GM were thrown out the window. Instead, Brett Brown and (presumably) Marc Eversley got on the horn and did their best Sam Hinkie impression—and I gotta say, they did a damn good job.

Moving Mikal Bridges for a player of slight lesser value and an unprotected pick with highly variable value is classic Hinkie. The whole “concentric circle” concept of growing your assets was on full display, as nobody can argue that the Sixers didn’t gain ‘raw value’ in this deal. (If all that sounds like a foreign language, as a Sixers fan you owe it to yourself to read this: … If you’re attention span is too short, consider this explanation from Hinkie:

[To explain his thought-process] Hinkie shows a series of concentric circles, each representing a move that eventually helped the Rockets acquire James Harden in 2012, back when Hinkie was Houston’s executive VP of basketball operations. “I learned that Yao Ming broke his navicular bone like five days before the 2009 draft,” Hinkie said. “From that moment on, all I thought about was going from zero stars to one star. How do you do it?”

“We paid a record price to Sam Presti for the 31st pick to draft Carl Landry in 2007. He’s the best offensive rebounder and the best rim finisher in the league as a rookie. And then over time, he ends up in a deal for Kevin Martin. And over time, Kevin Martin ends up in a deal for James Harden. You start with a set of chips, given to you by the league. How do you make it bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger, such that you can win?”

It’s all about taking the set of chips you have (assets: players, cap space, draft picks), and finding a way to make that grow. That concept was clearly the influence for the team’s decision-making all night.

The GM-by-committee didn’t stop there, as they traded the 38th overall pick for an additional two future second round picks. Hinkie made a habit of stockpiling second round picks like they were going out of style (most of the picks we have now are from his tenure) and Brett Brown has clearly embraced that page of the Daryl Morey playbook.

With roster spots being tight in 2019, it makes sense that the team would want to push those picks off until they may need them in the future. It only sweetens the pot that they were able to turn these picks into multiple picks in the future—yet another example of compounding value, and deepening our war chest of trade assets.

The contrast between the Colangelo regime and the Hinkie regime perfectly sums up the divide between old-school thinkers and analytics based thinkers. Last night made it glaringly obvious which ideology reigns supreme in the Sixers front office.

Long live Sam Hinkie, long live The Process.

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