Trade Grades: Sixers Position Themselves For Kawhi Leonard

Philadelphia might have ultimately come away with the lesser wing prospect, but the Sixers' draft night deal adds a prime asset for a potential Kawhi Leonard trade.
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The Phoenix Suns were reportedly ready to phone in their selection of Donte DiVincenzo at No. 16, when the Philadelphia 76ers called offering Mikal Bridges, whom they selected at No. 10. To complete the swap, the Suns traded a 2021 Miami first-round pick back to Philadelphia, a selection Phoenix originally acquired in the Goran Dragic trade. The Sixers effectively nabbed Texas Tech swingman Zhaire Smith. Both teams have been in the market for help on the perimeter, and appear to have landed prospects they were respectively high on.

Suns: B+

Mikal Bridges is a terrific prospect. And at 21 years old, with two NCAA championships under his belt, he’s not of the raw mold the other wings in this draft range presently are. Bridges will be able to provide much-needed shooting for the Suns. Even with Devin Booker, Phoenix ranked dead last in the NBA in three-point shooting in 2017-18, while Bridges drained 43.5% of his triples last season at Villanova. Even considered an older prospect, Bridges is the same age as Booker, and fits right into the Suns’ timeline and youth movement. However Phoenix is still far from playoff contention and sacrificing a highly valuable 2021 Heat pick may end up looking like a costly mistake should Miami’s current makeup topple at the conclusion of its current roster’s set of contracts. 

Sixers: A-

Philly flashed its interests in Smith by circling back to the freshman for a second pre-draft workout this week. At present, Smith is a brutal fit alongside the Sixers’ core roster. The postseason proved Philly desperately needed wing shooting to surround Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, especially if Markelle Fultz is unable to rediscover his shooting stroke. Smith does not provide that for Philly. He shot 45.0% from three this season, but on a microscopic sample size of 40 attempts, while making only 71.7% of his free throws. The form is troubling outside of the numbers, but the Sixers do roster one of the premier player development staffs in the NBA. That’s a department head coach Brett Brown has specialized in dating back to his time in the early 2000s as a Spurs assistant. The Sixers have helped Dario Saric stretch his jumper out to the NBA three-point line, and also morphed T.J. McConnell into a serviceable long-range shooter. There is precedent here.

Acquiring the Heat’s 2021 selection in addition to a wing prospect the team clearly coveted is a massive haul here as well. A Suns source told The Front Office that the selection is completely unprotected, which could serve as a massive lubricant for any of Philly’s efforts to acquire Kawhi Leonard. The Sixers were obviously down a first-round pick in its warchest after dealing the Kings’ top-1 protected 2019 first-round pick to Boston in last June’s efforts to acquire Markelle Fultz. Adding an unprotected selection—which could emerge massively valuable should Miami deteriorate as previously mentioned—could be incredibly helpful in Philly’s efforts to acquire Kawhi Leonard from San Antonio this summer. If that benefit is the cost of doing business for moving off Bridges for Smith, it’s an incredible haul for Philadelphia. This grade should really be a TBD, dependent on any impending Leonard negotiations, of course. Should the Sixers one day soon pull off that blockbuster, Philly’s present non-GM front office might be up for a collective Executive of the Year award.