Miles Bridges has probably seen his name next to the Charlotte Hornets logo in mock drafts more than any other 2018 draft entrant, and for good reason. The former Spartan has the tools to bring some dynamism to a Hornets forward group that has been in lacking in that respect over the last several seasons.
He’s not a player without faults though.
Question marks: Is he a 3 or a 4? Is he big enough to play the 4 and does he have enough shot making ability to play the 3?
Bridges measured at 6’6.75” in shoes with a 6’9.5” wingspan and 8’7.5” standing reach, all of which would be extraordinarily small for a player spending the bulk of his minutes at the power forward spot. The lack of height is somewhat offset by his burly frame, as he weighed in at 220 pounds with less than 6% body fat. However, teams may be concerned that his relative lack of length would make it difficult to bother the shots of larger 4s.
Bridges’ lack of elite height and reach may force him to spend some if not most of his time at the 3, where his abilities as a shot creator and shot maker would be featured more prominently.
Bridges converted 37.5% of his 3-point attempts during his two year career in East Lansing, but sometimes struggled when not afforded time and space and had more bad misses than you’d like to see. He was woeful shooting off the dribble as a freshman but improved greatly as a sophomore. Scouts will be looking to see if that improvement is sustainable as he transitions to the pro game. Being able to shoot on the move will be imperative if he’s going to be successful as a 3 in the NBA.
His shot making off the dribble is also hampered by his shot selection. He plays sped up at times and settles for tough shots with time still on the shot clock. On top of that, he doesn’t always elevate well in traffic, which makes his lack of length more concerning. He tends to load off two feet and often doesn’t get great extension on layup attempts, which could lead to problems finishing against NBA length and athleticism. He’s apparently lost 20 pounds since his Michigan State playing days in an attempt to combat those concerns, but it remains to be seen how much he’ll benefit from that.
Strengths: Strength, athleticism, shooting ability, versatility, defensive potential, intangibles
The first thing that immediately jumps out when watching Bridges play is his combination of strength and leaping ability. He has a thick powerful frame, but still has the leaping ability to pull off otherworldly dunks.
There’s plenty of skill to accompany that athleticism. As I alluded to above, he converted 37.5% of his 339 career 3-point attempts and improved his free throw percentage from 68.5% as a freshman to 85.3% as a sophomore. He has a fluid, compact release that should have no problems translating to the NBA three point line.
He brings more to the offensive table than outside shooting ability. He’s a capable ball handler and can be an off-the-dribble mismatch on the perimeter when guarded by 4s. He has solid ball handling ability for his size; he can grab and go after securing a defensive rebound and make plays in transition both as a finisher and as a distributor. He averaged 2.7 assists per game as a sophomore, up from the 2.1 he averaged as a freshman, both of which are impressive numbers for a college front court player.
Defensively he has the tools to guard both 3s and 4s. He shows impressive foot speed and lateral agility to keep up with smaller wings and has the strength to battle with bigger 4s in the post. The one drawback on this end of the floor for him is again his size, which allows bigger forwards to shoot over the top of him.
All of those skills are tied together by the intangibles he brings to the table. By all accounts, he’s a terrific kid. He stayed in school an extra season because he cherished the relationships he had with those on campus, despite just about every conceivable external force pushing him to chase the NBA and the money that comes with it, including his mother. Fran Fraschilla mentioned him when talking about the glut of high character guys coming into the NBA.
.@NBA has never been in better shape. Friends with teams told me today they interviewed more high character guys than ever. Aaron Holiday, the Michigan State kids, Mikal Bridges came to mind.— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) May 17, 2018
Miles Bridges would be a fantastic acquisition for the Hornets, and they’re already showing interest. He could immediately step into a Marvin Williams type role as a spot up shooter, defender, and connector at both the 3 and the 4 before taking on a larger role as a potential secondary scorer to Kemba Walker as his skill set develops.