Miles Bridges had enough highlight-reel dunks, corner threes and athletically-grabbed rebounds during his rookie season to make it clear that he’s a worthy investment of the Hornets’ time during the rebuilding process. At this point, the team needs to be hoarding young players with any semblance of potential in hopes that they turn into an asset that they can either trade, or use themselves. Bridges is that; his position may not be overly clear (true “positions” are becoming outdated anyways), and there are plenty of things to work on, but the upside that was shown during his two seasons at Michigan State is still there.
As is the case with a lot of raw, athletic prospects, Bridges could stand to work on his shooting. He’s become a more-serviceable shooter since his college days, but a good portion of his makes/attempts come from the corners. Anyone who has shot a basketball in real-life can tell you that corner threes are easier than above-the-break threes. Bridges needs to be able to hit from anywhere behind the arc to be treated as a threat by opposing defenses. Charlotte would be well-served to try and mold him into a small-ball stretch-four, where his elite athleticism would be an advantage on both sides of the ball, no matter the match-up. If it’s another small-ball four, he can defend. If it’s a bigger, interior player, he can stretch them out to the three-point line, and blow right by them to finish at the rim, which leads me to my next point.
Other than corner threes, a lot of Bridges’ field goal attempts (210 of his 511) qualify as “at the rim” attempts. He took 200 threes, but no other type of shot saw more than 62 attempts. Basically, Bridges would be a really good fit for today’s “threes and layups” type of offensive style that’s spreading throughout the NBA. The Warriors, Bucks, Rockets, and Celtics all employ a system that get those kinds of opportunities. Hint: all of those teams have been good recently. If Bridges can continue the developmental trajectory that he’s on right now, he could be the perfect small-ball stretch-four in a few years. Add that on to his 98th-percentile athletic ability, and there’s a really useful player.
The Hornets have undergone quite the franchise overhaul this offseason, not only on the court, but off of it. Bridges has essentially become the face of the franchise, along with fellow youngsters Dwayne Bacon and Terry Rozier. Those three seem to be marketed by the team and talked about by the front office more than the other young players. With coach James Borrego recently talking about giving Rozier upwards of 34 minutes this season, I can’t imagine Bridges is far behind. I’d be pretty surprised if he doesn’t begin the year in the starting lineup. There’s really nothing to lose.
Not everyone agreed with Charlotte’s selection of Bridges in the draft a little over a year ago, but it’s hard to make the argument that he doesn’t at least have the potential to live up to his draft slot. Borrego had already started making an emphasis on giving the team’s young talent the green light at the end of last year, and Bridges played some of his most well-rounded basketball during that stretch. If the starting lineup is something like Rozier/Bacon/Batum/Bridges/Zeller, this could be a huge opportunity for Bridges to establish himself as a main option for the Hornets, on both ends of the floor.