Why the Sixers Unprotected 2021 Pick is so Valuable
Everyone seems to have an opinion on the Sixers draft night trade that saw the Phoenix Suns give up the No. 16 pick of the 2018 draft, Zhaire Smith and the unprotected 2021 Miami Heat first-round pick for Mikal Bridges.
"So the difference between Zhaire Smith and Mikal Bridges is not so great that when you’re talking about this valuable 2021 pick that it’s not worth going down that road because this 2021 pick," Sam Vecenie of the Athletic.com said on 97.3 ESPN's Sports Bash on Monday.
"It’s almost impossible now to get unprotected draft picks."
In exchange, the Sixers give up one of the draft’s ready-now players in Bridges.
"We are in a situation where Philadelphia may have ended up getting a better player than Mikal Bridges at the end of the day," Vecenie said. "I don’t think that anyone around the NBA would argue with the fact that Smith, due to his athleticism and length has a higher ceiling than what Mikal Bridges does, it’s just that Bridge’s fit and readiness to play was particularly attractive to Philadelphia."
It’s unclear how valuable the Heat pick will be when 2021 rolls around, but chances are the Sixers will find plenty of takers for the pick through a trade if that's the route they chose to go.
"I think it is probably more valuable as a trade chip just because of the uncertainty that surrounds it," Vecenie explained. " It’s a highly volatile asset because we don’t know what Miami is going to look like."
"I think it’s more valuable as a trade chip, it could be the piece that Philadelphia uses to get them seriously into the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes. It could be the piece that Philadelphia uses if someone like Damian Lillard or if Anthony Davis was to turn down the super max extension that New Orleans can offer next summer. That is a situation where having all of these assets, having this treasure chest of assets that teams value around the NBA, is incredibly valuable and this just added to it. Only at the cost of downgrading from Mikal Bridges to Zhaire Smith, which even if it’s a downgrade, it’s not a substantial one in my opinion."
The Sixers front office decided adding such a valuable assets was more important then adding to the current core, even if it means waiting three years or using the pick as a trade chip
Meanwhile, last year's No. 1 overall pick, guard Markelle Fultz, appears to be working hard towards a return to take the floor for Philadelphia.
The team hopes he can return to the form that made him the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2017 NBA draft, where he averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game as a freshman at Washington.
"I think he needs to at least be confident in shooting his jumper in order to be a quality NBA player," ESPN NBA Insider Kevin Pelton said on the Sports Bash. "If that does happen, then all the same skills that caused the Sixers to trade up last year and made him the number one prospect, all of those are still the same and nothing has changed in that regard. So I am reasonably optimistic about his future."
Even with Fultz and 2021 draft pick, the Sixers are planning to target a top level free-agent this offseason, and might have to include one or both of them if they want to acquire someone via trade.
"They’re already in these conversations," Vecenie explained. "You can make the case that they can present San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard this summer a better offer than almost anyone can, maybe you can say Boston, but Philadelphia is right there with them, it would just depend on what San Antonio is looking for and if Philadelphia is willing to take on the risk of a one year rental in Kawhi Leonard. So, this is the kind of move that puts them even closer to over the top in potential Kawhi Leonard talks."