With the 11th pick in the 2018 NBA draft the Charlotte Hornets selected Shai Gilgeous-Alexander… then immediately traded him to the LA Clippers for the 12th pick and two future second round picks. The Charlotte Hornets picked Miles Bridges with the next pick and for better or worse the comparisons began.
SGA’s name came up in Rookie of the year discussions all season. He ended 9th in rookie scoring, and went 45% from the field. But above the numbers, he became a reliable offensive producer for Clippers head coach Doc Rivers to unleash when his team needed a punch. He cracked the team’s starting lineup by the tenth game of the season, though it should be said the the Clippers rely heavily on their bench players, like Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, to close out games and make winning decisions.
On the other hand, it took Miles longer to break into the Hornets starting lineup, when head coach James Borrego needed to get more from his bench, he sent Jeremy Lamb to the second unit and promoted his rookie.
Miles spent 25 games in that starting role, growing his points per game from six to nine points. He became a key factor in the hornets two 4 game winning streaks and filled up the highlight reel. From the all-star break, he averaged five rebounds per game and routinely handled the defensive guard duty for Kemba Walker. The energy he and Dwayne Bacon brought to the team was a breath of fresh air during the fight for the playoffs. When the media spoke about the youth resurgence in Charlotte during the last quarter of the season, for the most part, their referring to what Bridges contributed.
The national media concentrated on Miles’ high flying dunks, and for good reason. He is spectacular above the rim in a way Charlotte hasn’t seen in decades. An exciting player like that can increase the spotlight on a franchise too often left out of the conversation. But for Miles to achieve the potential he possesses he has to be shut down on the defensive end and be a high IQ offensive piece. And we saw some of that this year.
At the best of times, he was a sure-handed receiver of kickout passes and drove the paint with power. However, at the worst of times, he looked lost between the three point line and the key, unaware or unsure of his role. If Bridges can set solid picks, and raise his outside shooting percentage from the low 30 percentages to the upper part of that range that would show the progress needed in year two.
There’s an old sports adage that says given the choice between two players of the same skill level, one who has great technique and one has poor technique, you choose the one with poor technique because you can coach the approach and end up with a better player. What goes unsaid in that adage is that players succeed up to the level of their leadership. So, as much as I hope Miles puts in the work to better himself, I hope this new organization gives him the tools and support he needs to grow.