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Sixers trade for Zhaire Smith looks just like The Process

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Sam Hinkie may be gone but The Process never dies.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Hinkie left the Philadelphia 76ers more than two years ago, but The Process never dies. The Sixers — who are being run by coach Brett Brown after Bryan Colangelo bounced on the back of a burner tweet saga — made a truly Hinkian deal at the 2018 NBA Draft on Thursday, one that is surely making Sam smile, wherever he is. (Sipping kombucha after an intense goat yoga sesh in Atherton, no doubt.)

The Sixers traded down from No. 10 to No. 16, ending up with Zhaire Smith out of Texas Tech while Villanova’s Mikal Bridges heads to the Suns. The prize for the Sixers trading down? Miami’s unprotected 2021 first-round pick, which the Suns owned due to the Goran Dragic trade a couple years ago.

You can’t fault the Suns for moving up into the late lottery to get a guy they wanted in Bridges, who figures to be more of a plug-and-play rotation players than most prospects. Moving a future unprotected first is a steep price, but the front office is fighting for their jobs right now. They need to turn the Suns around well before 2021 to even be around by then. Bridges offers a better chance than anyone available at No. 16.

Meanwhile, the Sixers have the luxury of talent. Philadelphia can afford to take on riskier prospects and future picks because they are already really good. Smith, the prospect they ended up with, has good upside and is two years younger than Bridges. The 2021 pick from Miami — which the Suns could protect, though there’s been no suggestion they have — is another asset to stack in future deals or to use when it comes up. The Heat are no great team and that deal for Dragic was always a risk for them. Now Philadelphia stands to benefit from Miami’s future risk.

This is exactly what The Process was all about: amassing dice rolls through the draft and smartly using assets to accrue better assets.

It’s worth noting that Colangelo’s signature move leading the Sixers was the Markelle Fultz trade, where he used a premium asset Hinkie had acquired (the Kings’ unprotected 2019 first-round pick) to improve another one (Philadelphia’s own No. 3 pick in 2017). That hasn’t exactly worked out so far.

Now the Sixers have switched back in the other direction. This probably isn’t a huge philosophical shift. Circumstance in the late lottery are different than the Fultz situation, where Colangelo really felt like grabbing the consensus No. 1 at point guard was worth the cost. In 2018, Brown and the Sixers’ front office felt good about moving down a few spots and still picking up a blue-chip prospect.

Of course, the Sixers under Hinkie weren’t the first or only team to make deals like this. In fact, Danny Ainge’s Boston Celtics make deals like this all the time! The C’s were the other party in that Fultz deal, picking up that premium Kings pick to move down two spots to take Jayson Tatum, the player Ainge wanted anyway. The Celtics don’t exactly need the Kings’ pick next season, but it’s very nice to have.

The Celtics have, of course, done trades the other way, too. The primary example: sending the Nets’ unprotected 2018 pick — which ended up being Collin Sexton — out in the Kyrie Irving trade. So really, this very Process trade for the Sixers is pretty normal.

But the legend of Hinkie in Philadelphia and Colangelo’s inglorious exist just cast everything into such relief. In the context of everything that has come, this trade looks like a return to the beloved past as a move focused on the future.