Brett Brown inspired a ton of confidence during his presser following the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft Thursday night. “We are star hunting,” said the man who couldn’t foresee being in this position five weeks ago. In what’s most likely his only draft as “final decision-maker” for the 76ers, Brown made a statement, trading the tenth overall pick, Villanova-own Mikal Bridges, to Phoenix for Zhaire Smith and an unprotected 2021 Miami Heat first-round pick.
It’s only human to feel terrible for Bridges and his family. Bridges was answering questions about joining the same team where his mother works in a press conference. Matter of factly, he was still answering questions when Philadelphia made the trade. But Brown made the right decision, especially since the 76ers were high on Smith. With Smith, Philadelphia acquired an absolute terror on the defensive end, somebody capable of potentially sticking with point guards in crucial postseason moments. Brown said he believes Smith will develop into a creator on offense, which feels like a stretch, given how limited Smith’s offense was his lone season at Texas Tech, but he just turned 19.
Since Bryan Colangelo traded with the Boston Celtics last June, depleting Philadelphia’s pick assets, acquiring a star through a trade felt bleak. The 76ers, essentially, had to use their own players to make a hypothetical move. Trading for Miami’s unprotected 2021 pick helps tremendously in negotiations. The Heat could very well be a terrible team at the time, given their current financial situation and lack of franchise-changing players. The 76ers will aim to pry Kawhi Leonard away from the Spurs, certainly, and the unprotected Heat pick only helps with that goal.
Unlike a competitive game of Mario Party 2 where four eager participants literally hunt, or depending on skill level luck into, stars to win a game, Brown described star hunting as Philadelphia’s never-ending search for the best possible team, formulating a championship ball club. In Friday’s press conference, Brown reiterated star hunting, explaining to reporters his ultimate goal of winning a championship reigns supreme. The 76ers have two known commodity building blocks in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Markelle Fultz has every bit of a chance to be a capable third option. Dario Saric is the right kind of competitor to make up a title-hungry team. As are TJ McConnell and Robert Covington. But what kind of team would Philadelphia be if it didn’t take a chance to get even better? The goal is to win a championship. The goal is to win several of them.
It’s about building a culture in Philadelphia. It’s about having competition, too. Smith helps tremendously in that department. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Justin Anderson and Furkan Korkmaz will be involved, too. As will Shake Milton and Landry Shamet. Rookies rarely ever make a real, winning impact. Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell and redshirt Simmons were exceptions. The fact that Philadelphia received an unprotected 2021 first-rounder for trading back six spots couldn’t have been expected entering Thursday night. Brown decided it was the right move to make, which doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult. There’s a human element involved, which Brown alluded to. But Brown’s not satisfied with his team’s second-round exit. He wants more, which has to inspire confidence to a fan base that ultimately wants a winner.