BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 21: Zhaire Smith speaks to the media after being selected sixteenth overall at the 2018 NBA Draft on June 21, 2018 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Kostas Lymperopoulos/NBAE via Getty Images

Draft 2018 | Sought-After Prospect, Future Pick Highlight Acquisitions

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

Smith, Plus Pick, Worth Tough Decision

Understanding that big decisions would likely require a bold stroke, the 76ers went about their business in the draft accordingly.

In the end, the approach netted them not only a coveted prospect, but an extra asset that could help better move the franchise towards its ultimate goal - a title parade.

After choosing Great Valley High School and Villanova product Mikal Bridges with Thursday’s 10th pick, the Sixers got a call they felt they couldn’t refuse.

The Phoenix Suns were on the other end, offering up guard-forward Zhaire Smith, who was chosen 16th overall, plus an unprotected first-round pick in 2021.

To Brett Brown, the proposal represented the type of “Godfather” deal you act on, regardless of the highly emotional ramifications involved.

And so it was that a trade was agreed upon.

“On our big board, we had 1A and 1B, and when the ninth pick was selected [Alabama’s Collin Sexton to New York], you realize, we’re going to get one of our two, and we chose Mikal,” said Brown, currently the Sixers’ acting head of basketball operations.

Not too long after that, the phone rang.

“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.”

The factor served as Brown’s guiding compass Thursday was the same one he’s followed since he was originally hired to coach the Sixers back in August of 2013:

What’s best for the Philadelphia 76ers, and how can the organization go about winning a championship?

Does Brown think Smith can help advance the Sixers towards this goal? It sounded Thursday like, yes, in the long run, Brown does.

But there was also the matter of the role the unprotected pick played in Thursday’s swap. Brown couldn’t overlook its potential significance. 

“That could be the thing that flips it with us having more assets to enhance a realistic trade for a star,” said Brown, who added that the Sixers are in the mode of “star-hunting.”

“The emotion of what we have all been through is painful, but as I said, what’s best for the organization and how do you win a championship? 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.”

In respect to adding Smith to an already promising young core of past lottery picks, Brown likes where the Sixers are at.

Smith just turned 19 years old on June 4th, and is coming off an impressive, intriguing freshman season at Texas Tech. He averaged 11.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game, while also - as a rookie - earning Big 12 All-Defensive honors. 

The Sixers hosted Smith for two workouts - the first on June 12th, and the second this past Tuesday. Both were group sessions, and Brown was bullish on what he saw.

Smith’s overall foundation, especially on the defensive end, along with his character, made him all the more appealing to the Sixers. The club is also confident he can create his own shot, and grow as a shooter

“It’s a blessing to end up with the Sixers,” said Smith, who hit 18 of 40 threes a season ago. “They run in transition. I feel I can be a part of that. Ben Simmons, he can bring it up and make good passes. I’m a good cutter, so he’ll make me look good.”

“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,” said Brown. “We believe entirely in time he has the ability to be incredibly unique, maybe even great.

“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.”

Shamet Offers Shooting Touch

The Sixers went with Wichita State guard Landry Shamet at 26 in the first round. Shamet was actually part of Zhaire Smith’s workout group Tuesday, and is coming off a junior season during which he established career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, 3-point shooting, and foul shooting.

A 21-year old native of Kansas City, Shamet put up perimeter numbers that were hard to ignore. He canned a career-best 84 triples as a junior, and topped the AAC with a 44.2 3-point percentage.

“He's got a lot of game,” said Brett Brown. “I see him being a combo guard that can shoot, make plays and I think has a prideful approach to his defense that was really attractive to us.”

“I understand the importance of playing hard all the time on defense and giving all your effort,” Shamet said in Brooklyn. “That’s going to be me. I can do that.”

Streamlined Second Round

While the Sixers entered Thursday's draft with four second-round picks, the team ended up taking only one player, Shake Milton from SMU, who went 54th overall. The Sixers made an exchange with Dallas to acquire the pre-season AAC Player of the Year, who too worked out for the Sixers earlier this month.   

Milton spent three years at SMU, his most recent season cut short due to a broken hand from which he has since overcome. Nevertheless, he averaged 18.0 points per game, while nailing 56 treys on 43.4 percent 3-point shooting. 

Brett Brown called Milton an “incredibly interesting” prospect, due to his 7-foot wingspan, and size.

"I feel tremendously confident and proud of the fact that the people that we have brought in are our types of people.”

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