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Trading Zhaire Smith after two seasons was a reminder of the Sixers’ string of draft-day missteps | Off the Dribble

The organization hopes things will change under the revamped front office, led by new president of basketball operations Daryl Morey.

The Delaware Blue Coats' Zhaire Smith watching from the bench as his team played the Greensboro Swarm on Nov. 11, 2019.
The Delaware Blue Coats' Zhaire Smith watching from the bench as his team played the Greensboro Swarm on Nov. 11, 2019.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

Happy Monday, folks! Let’s make this the start of a good week, and please have a safe Thanksgiving holiday.

Can you believe the NBA season is right around the corner? Training camp will begin Dec. 1, and the season openers are scheduled for Dec. 22. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m fired up to see what the new-look 76ers are going to do.

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Keith Pompey (

Another draft-day misstep gone

Zhaire Smith’s departure after two seasons speaks to the 76ers’ past inability to evaluate draft talent.

The organization hopes things will change under the revamped front office, led by new president of basketball operations Daryl Morey.

Aside from All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Sixers haven’t really done well with draft selections, especially first-rounders. Landry Shamet and Matisse Thybulle were solid late-first-round acquisition in the 2018 and 2019 drafts, respectively. (Shamet was the second first-round selection in 2018.) It’s too early to judge Tyrese Maxey, whom the team picked at No. 21 on Wednesday.

But while hindsight is indeed 20/20, think about the Sixers’ failed first-round draft picks and the players they passed on during their six drafts before 2019.

Now, the Sixers are trading shooting guard Smith to the Detroit Pistons for Tony Bradley, a league source confirmed Sunday. The Pistons are expected to waive Smith, according to Yahoo Sports.

Smith, 21, was a bad fit for the Sixers, who never gave him a real opportunity to showcase his skills. It’s obvious that acquiring him in a 2018 draft-night shocker was a wasted opportunity for both parties.

But what’s new?

The Sixers’ most notable blunders occurred in the 2015 and 2017 drafts. In 2015, they selected Jahlil Okafor third overall instead of Kristaps Porzingis, who went fourth to the New York Knicks. At the time, the Sixers said they didn’t select Porzingis because his agent refused to allow him to work out for the team. But Okafor also didn’t work out for the Sixers. Porzingis is a cornerstone of the Dallas Mavericks organization and a one-time All-Star. Okafor is on his fourth NBA team, the Pistons.

The Sixers might never get over moving up two spots to select Markelle Fultz first overall in 2017. They got that pick from the Boston Celtics for their No. 3 pick of that draft and the No. 14 selection in the 2019 draft. Boston ended up taking Jayson Tatum at No. 3, and choosing Romeo Langford at 14 last summer. The move might go down as the worst trade in Sixers history.

Fultz, who has shooting woes, missed considerable time as a Sixer before being shipped to the Orlando Magic on Feb. 7, 2019 for Jonathon Simmons; a 2019 second-round pick; and a 2020 top-20 protected first-rounder. They got the 2020 draft pick back and used it select Maxey at No. 21. Meanwhile, Tatum is one of the NBA’s elite young talents and an NBA All-Star.

Also, the Sixers were vilified on social media and on local sports talk radio the moment they traded Villanova and Great Valley High School product Mikal Bridges on draft night to the Phoenix Suns for Smith, the 16th overall pick, and a 2021 first-round draft pick. The trade came 38 minutes after the Sixers drafted Bridges with the 10th pick.

Bridges is one of the league’s top young three-and-D players, averaging 8.7 points and 1.5 steals in 155 games with 88 starts. Smith has spent more time injured or with the Sixers’ G League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats, than with the Sixers. He averaged 1.1 points in seven NBA appearances this season, and 3.7 points in 13 career games.

Starting five

  1. Sixers parting ways with Zhaire Smith, sending him to Detroit Pistons for Tony Bradley. Smith’s two-season tenure with the Sixers was marred by bad luck, as he failed to remain healthy.

  2. Revamped Sixers still in desperate need of a dominant perimeter go-to scorer. The 76ers need a guy who can get a bucket, finish isolation plays, take opponents off the dribble, and bury a three-pointer.

  3. Looking for another title, new Sixers center Dwight Howard tweets, ‘Let’s bring a chip to Philly.’ The team announced Saturday that Howard had signed one-year, guaranteed veteran-minimum deal, which is for $2.56 million.

  4. Sixers coach Doc Rivers named to National Basketball Social Justice Coalition. The coalition was formed to build upon social justice goals that were shared during the NBA’s summer restart.

  5. Is NBA free agency quiet or a little too quiet for the Sixers? David Murphy says Bradley and Howard might not have been the big splash fans were hoping for, but the Sixers have laid the groundwork to both compete and pivot in a variety of directions.

Hornets paying a steep price for Gordon Hayward

The Charlotte Hornets have a habit of overpaying players.

So it shouldn’t be all that surprising that they gave Gordon Hayward a four-year, $120 million deal over the weekend. The hope is that he’ll revert back to the player who was an All-Star in his final season with the Utah Jazz in 2016-17.

Yet, that money seems a little steep based on his past three seasons with the Boston Celtics. He suffered a season-ending dislocated ankle and fractured tibia in his Celtics debut on Oct. 17, 2017. Then Hayward‘s role diminished the past two seasons when he took a backseat to Tatum and Jalen Brown.

Now, he’s making $30 million, annually, as the new face of the Hornets.

Passing the rock

Question: While they filled needs and dumped salaries, what else needs to be improved? And, might they still be looking for a legit/starting scoring guard to make this team less one dimensional and more difficult to defend [with Joel Embiid being only legit scoring threat every night]? — @Jdneal22 on Twitter

Answer: What’s up, John? Thanks for the question. The Sixers’ biggest need is for a guy who can consistently get a bucket. The person must be able to finish isolation plays, taking opponents off the dribble or burying step-back three-pointers. He needs to strike fear in defenders while making things easier for Embiid.

I think they will continue to at least keep tabs on those types of players. If the price is right or depending on circumstance, don’t be surprised if they make a trade at some point of the season.