The board above the stage in the Barclay’s Center flashed that the Hornets’ pick was in. Adam Silver walked to the podium and announced the Hornets selection with the 11th pick in the draft, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Nothing surprising. But minutes later, it was announced that the Hornets traded the Kentucky point guard for the next pick in the draft and some second rounders. With that selection, the Hornets picked Miles Bridges, forward out of Michigan State.
Bridges was a consensus lottery pick and was widely mocked to the Hornets early in the 2017 offseason before he ultimately decided to return to Michigan State for his sophomore season. His coach called him a weirdo and his mother begged him to go pro, but a 19 year old Bridges wanted another year in East Lansing to mature both as a player and a person.
Fast forward one year, and Bridges now finds himself a lottery pick and a Charlotte Hornet.
Standing 6’6.75” in shoes, Bridges is a bit on the small side for a guy projected to play as a hybrid forward at the NBA level, but he has the strength and vertical explosiveness to overcome that. While he’s known to the casual observer for his highlight reel dunks, Bridges is one of the most versatile players in this class.
Hornets General Mitch Kupchak has said he expects the rookie to be able to guard three, maybe four positions in time. He has lapses off the ball, but those can be coached out of him. On the ball, he has good feet and better lateral quickness than you’d expect for a player of his build, and his strength helps him contain players on the perimeter. Longer players may be able to shoot over him, but he’s physical enough to offset his lack of length.
Offensively, Bridges brings a little bit of everything to the table. He knocked down 127 3-pointers during his two year career and Michigan State at a very respectable 37.5% clip. After a relatively poor showing as a free throw shooter and shot creator as a freshman, the Flint native bumped his free throw percentage to over 85% and became an above average shot maker off the dribble. He’s a good ball handler for his position and has the agility to take bigger covers off the dribble. He’s an above average passer for his position, as only 10 forwards or centers in power five conferences matched his 2.7 assist per game average as a sophomore.
Miles Bridges is talented enough to immediately step in and contribute for the Hornets at either forward spot, and could maybe even steal a few minutes at the 2. Even as a rookie, he makes the Hornets roster better while still having the potential to grow into a star-level player.
Some highlights for your viewing pleasure: