With the 10th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft the Philadelphia 76ers selected Mikal Bridges from the Villanova Wildcats. The pick had more significance than the obvious. We all know Villanova is a college in the Philly area. Not only was this the first time a Villanova player was drafted by the hometown 76ers, but Nova’s Mikal Bridges is also a guy who comes from the Philadelphia area. (Malvern, P.A.) Also, Mikal’s mother, Tyneeha Rivers works for the 76ers, in the team’s HR department. It all seems like the perfect set up for a Cinderella story. By the time this night would end, that dream would be turned into a nightmare. (Not really, Mikal will still be living out his dreams of playing in the NBA next season, just not with his hometown 76ers. I just added “nightmare” because it sounds more dramatic.)
Bridges, his mother, Villanova head coach Jay Wright, and a host of family and friends gathered around, beamed with pride and joy as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the 76ers had selected Bridges with the 10th overall pick in the NBA draft. Bridges must’ve felt as if he was in a dream when he walked to the podium wearing a 76ers hat as he shook the Commisioner’s hand. Next, it was off to do interviews with national and local media and talk about how excited he was to be playing for a team that is clearly on the rise. With the uncertainty of Markelle Fultz’s role on the team moving forward, there was a good possibility that Bridges might not only be playing for a real contender next season, but might also see significant playing time. A lot to look forward to for a young player. A dream come true. Meanwhile, the 76ers organization were on some whole other sh*t. The 76ers likely never drafted Bridges looking for him to play on their squad. Yes, Bridges was a part of the process, but not in the way he probably hoped for.
I think the 76ers still believe Philly may be a possible landing spot for Lebron James or Kawhi Leonard during the offseason search for a superstar free agent signing. The 76ers believe they are one player away from being the team to come out of the Eastern Conference next season. They have a legitimate reason to feel that way too. 1) The young 76ers are really good. 2) The Eastern Conference as a collective is really bad. If there were ever a good time to make a serious run at a championship, that time is now. The 76ers are making moves based on this theory. Sadly, Mikal Bridges didn’t fit the bill with this type of thinking. Drafting him was little more than trade bait.
Bridges was unaware that the hometown squad was already looking to move him as he did his interviews and talked about how excited he was to be a part of the 76ers franchise and play alongside the likes of rising stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. A short time later, the 76ers finalized a trade they’d been working on from the moment they drafted Bridges. He was on his way to Phoenix. He’d been traded for one of the Suns earlier picks, guard Zhaire Smith, and more importantly, an unprotected 2021 first round pick. (A move that makes Markelle Fultz’s future role with the 76ers even more questionable in my opinion) Bridges and his family handled the situation with class as he put on his best fake smile as he was interviewed about the trade. Bridges even went as far as to say how excited he was to be a part of the Suns franchise. That statement surely held a lot of truth to it. I mean, playing in the NBA is many kids dream. Mikal Bridges dreams came true on draft night, but playing for a young rebuilding team like Phoenix vs. playing for your hometown team which is on the rise, is a hell of a big difference. And likely “hella” disappointing. But on the bright side, Mikal Bridges is officially an NBA player. How many people in the world can say that?