Recent struggles aside, the Philadelphia 76ers have experienced higher highs than most NBA teams in the wake of “The Process.” That’s not to say, though, that every move the team has made in recent years has paid off. A few of them have been outright clunkers.
The Sixers’ biggest misfire, of course, was their selection of Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft. It’s a move that the club will probably never live down given the multitude of high-level ballers that came out of that particular class.
However, Philly made another major faux pas the following summer. While it hasn’t gotten quite the same level of ink, the team’s draft-night trading of hometown prospect Mikal Bridges — who was selected 10th overall by the team in 2018 — has similarly looked worse by the day.
Bridges has displayed incredible year-over-year growth since turning pro. And last season, his two-way prowess played a key role in helping the Phoenix Suns reach the NBA Finals.
As difficult as that may be for Sixers fans to stomach, though, Bridges’ probably got the worst of it when he was dealt.
Bridges on His Wild Draft Night Experience
On Episode 87 of JJ Redick’s podcast, The Old Man and the Three, Bridges went into detail about how his draft night played out. As he tells it, everything played out perfectly for him to have a real storybook moment by getting drafted to the team he grew up watching:
During the draft, I really thought I was going to go to New York or I was going to go to Philly. That was the thing, I thought I was going to New York or Philly. Once New York got Kevin Knox, I was sitting there, I look at my agents and I am like, ‘All right.’ I am looking at them, I am waiting for a call and I am like, all right, Philly’s up next. Then my agents kind of celebrated, kind of got the call right before they called me up and I was like, OK, going to Philly. Everybody’s been saying I should be going to Philly ever since —during my last year in college, everybody was like, he needs to stay in Philly. Once they got the 10th pick, everybody throughout my whole pre-draft, it was Philly this and Philly that.
Things got awkward in short order after the Sixers’ selection was made:
I walk out, and people that were escorting me, I kind of heard them, they were telling me to wait. They kind of held me after I did the media because I was supposed to take my pictures and everything. And they’re like listening to something and they said, ‘Hold on wait.’ I’m kind of smart, JJ, so now I am just like reading the room. Everybody I was just with, they’re all happy because they know my whole story, everybody knows my story, this is a dream come true, they’re all walking me there. I felt the energy in the room kind of drop. I am looking around and I see everybody with just kind of like that, ‘Damn, damn they did not just do that.’ So I am looking around like, ‘Why is everybody a little quiet now? Why is everybody quiet?’ I heard people kind of mumble and I heard, ‘Trade.’
Bridges added, “I was dead, bro. I was like ‘Man, there’s no way I’m leaving.'”
Everything worked out for him in the end, though. With Phoenix, Bridges has emerged as one of the Association’s best young talents. On Tuesday, he even managed the make the game’s best-ever marksman look like a rec-league chucker.
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Bridges Clamped Up Steph Curry Like No One Else
With a spot at the top of the Western Conference standings on the line, the Suns closed out November with a game against Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Entering the contest, one might have thought that Steph’s ceaselessly smooth stroke would carry the day.
On this occasion, however, Bridges keyed a defensive effort that led to a historically poor shooting night from the current MVP frontrunner.
By hitting just four of his 21 shot attempts, Curry broke new ground for ineptitude. It was the worst shooting performance of his 13-year career in a game where he attempted 20 or more shots. It was also just the fourth time that he had made five or fewer shots while volume-shooting to that degree.
It was the kind of effort that leaves Sixers fans to wonder what might have been had Bridges remained in the fold. Meanwhile, Suns coach Monty Williams couldn’t help but rave about Bridge’s performance after the game.
“Mikal’s defense,” Williams declared. “Steph missed some shots but I think the respect that Mikal has for Steph and our team defense showed him bodies tonight.”