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Sixers’ draft deals were made to set up chase for a star free agent

Now is the time to focus all of the Sixers' time and resources on getting a big-time free agent. The deal to acquire Zhaire Smith and a 2021 first-round pick was made with that goal in mind.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown hinted that the team may try to pursue signing LeBron James in free agency.
Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown hinted that the team may try to pursue signing LeBron James in free agency.Read moreYong Kim/Staff Photographer

"The time is now."

That is what 76ers coach and interim general manager Brett Brown said at the conclusion of Thursday night's NBA draft.

Now is the time to chase a star. Now is the time for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to cement themselves as the future of the league and rise to their potential. Now is the time to focus all of the Sixers' time and resources on getting a big-time free agent.

There isn't any time to waste, and that is the philosophy that drove the Sixers and all of their decisions during the draft.

>> READ MORE: Sixers draft Villanova's Mikal Bridges — then trade him for Zhaire Smith and a first-round pick

Acquiring Zhaire Smith and a 2021 unprotected first-round draft pick, trading the 38th pick for two future second-round selections, and earlier in the week trading the 39th pick for a 2019 second-rounder and cash considerations were decisions made in the name of having assets that could be packaged in a blockbuster trade and being able to lure a superstar caliber free-agent.

"Whether we have to go mobile, and as an example, go to Los Angeles, and deal with a family, and agent, a player, whether we can attract them to come here to the city of Philadelphia, the whole strategy of how we do that, the presentation of information, we've been talking about that for a while," Brown said Thursday night. "I feel completely confident that we will not miss a beat now that the draft is done and we can focus when free agency kicks in July 1."

And Brown means the very minute that free agency starts.

>> READ MORE: Sixers smart to make trade, build portfolio in more ways than one | David Murphy

On July 1, 2017, at 12:01 a.m., JJ Redick was the main focus. The Sixers had him in their practice facility and on a court talking about what it would be like to play with Embiid and Simmons. Now the focus is on an even bigger catch.

The example of Los Angeles is not a random one. Both LeBron James and Paul George own homes in the L.A. area and spend a large amount of time there in the offseason.

"We are star-hunting, or we are star-developing, that's how you win a championship," Brown said.

As if he hadn't made it perfectly clear since the conclusion of the Sixers 2017-18 season and playoff run, Brown underlined what he has said before. The team is ready to compete for a title, but they need more.

>> READ MORE: Meet the new Sixers: Zhaire Smith, Landry Shamet, Shake Milton

So, before any draft selection, before any trade, before any deal is made, the question that must be answered with a 'yes' is, does this help the franchise in trying to secure the help needed to win a title?

The move from Thursday night that came with the most resounding yes, in the eyes of Brown and his front office compatriots, was trading the 10th pick, Mikal Bridges, to Phoenix for Smith. It wasn't Smith that answered the Sixers' most burning question. It was the future draft pick that came with him.

"That pick might be the key to all of this," Brown said. "That pick might be the thing that links a possible trade."

>> READ MORE: What they're saying about the Bridges-Smith trade

The pick is a 2021 unprotected first-round pick via the Miami Heat. If the Heat are a lottery team in that years draft, the pick becomes more valuable. If that is the year that high school players are allowed back into the draft, the pick becomes even more valuable. It's the potential value that the Sixers are banking on and it's value that no NBA team would turn their nose up at.

Whether any of this works out, of course, remains to be seen. Brown has made the Sixers intentions very clear: they are actively working on a potential trade package, and at 12:01 a.m. on July 1, they'll be knocking on some very big doors.