NEW YORK — Mikal Bridges was staying home … so he thought.
The 76ers selected the Villanova product with the No. 10 pick in the NBA draft Thursday night at the Barclays Center. And he couldn’t have been happier.
But less than an hour later, the Sixers traded him to the Phoenix Suns for their 16th-overall pick Zhaire Smith. The Sixers also received the Miami Heat’s 2021 first-round pick. The Sixers really liked Smith, just not at the 10th pick.
The 6-foot-4 shooting guard averaged 11.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals this past season at Texas Tech He was named to the all-Big 12 newcomer team and to the conference’s all-defensive team.
But he likes defending more than anything else.
“I feel like anybody can score,” Smith said. “If you can do that small thing that Coach wants you to do, you can do good in the league.”
The Sixers had Smith in for workouts twice during the predraft process. His quickness was on full display in his first workout on June 12, as defenders had a tough time staying in front of him. He improved his shooting Tuesday during his second workout.
Smith said he worked on his game “three to four times” a day during his lone year at Texas Tech to become a draft prospect. The native of Garland, Texas, was told he could become a lottery pick at the beginning of his college season.
“When I first worked out with Texas Tech, (all of his) teammates saw it and Coach even saw it,” Smith said. “He was like, ‘Wow, you can be one-and-done if you just keep it up.’ I wasn’t paying attention. But I felt it during the middle of the season, late.”
Meanwhile Bridges, the 6-foot-7, 210-pound swingman is a multi-dimensional defensive standout and a good 3-point shooter (43.5 percent last season). He averaged 17.7 points and 5.3 rebounds in 32.1 minutes during the Wildcats’ run to the national championship.
Bridges’ mother, Tyneeha Rivers, is a global vice president of human resources at Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which Sixers owner Josh Harris co-owns. Her office, in fact, is in the complex in Camden where the Sixers practice and where Bridges worked out earlier this month.
The Sixers finished the regular season 52-30, the franchise’s best record since it went 56-26 in 2000-01. The Sixers finished third in the Eastern Conference and concluded the regular season with 16 straight wins, setting a league record for most consecutive victories to end a regular season. They made their first postseason appearance since 2012, losing in five games to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.