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Trending Hornets: Miles Bridges made a leap in 2021-22, but that seems unimportant right now

The Hornets emerging star was great on the court last year but his performance is overshadowed by the serious charges he faces off the court.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Charlotte Hornets Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Author’s note: I seriously considered not posting this column due to the felony domestic violence charges Miles Bridges is currently facing. As a restricted free agent Bridges is still a member of the Charlotte Hornets until he signs with another team and the Hornets decline to match the offer, so I’ll proceed with this factual, statistics-based article.

The Trending Hornets series evaluates the career trajectories of Charlotte’s players based on two advanced stats - Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) - as provided by Basketball Reference.

PER measures per-minute production standardized such as the league average is 15. A PER above 15 means a player contributed above league average. As a frame of reference, among last season’s PER leaders, the Top 20 players were 21.8 and higher while Nos. 21-40 ranged from 18.9 to 21.6.

VORP is a box score estimate of the points per 100 team possessions that a player contributed above a replacement level player. A VORP of 1.2 means the team was 1.2 points better off per 100 possessions with this player on the floor versus a league average player. Among last season’s VORP leaders, the Top 20 were 3.5 and higher and Nos. 21-40 ranged from 2.2 to 3.4.

This week we’ll look at the trajectory of Miles Bridges.

Mick Smiley, At the Hive

2021-22 results and league ranks

PER: 17.9; ranked 50th overall

VORP: 2.5; ranked 37th overall

Career trend overview

After being drafted by the Hornets as the No. 12 pick in the 2018 draft, Miles Bridges’ career got off to a rather underwhelming start. As a rookie he averaged 21.2 minutes per game and his advanced stats (13.1 PER, 0.5 VORP) were just okay for a late lottery pick who mostly came off the bench. It was in Bridges’ second season when the panic started to set in a bit. In 2019-20 he became a full-time starter averaging over 30 minutes per game but his advanced stats (12.1 PER, -0.3 VORP) declined from his rookie season and were both below league average levels.

But in 2020-21, Miles’ third NBA season, he took a huge step forward. While he only scored a ho-hum 12.7 points in 29.3 minutes per game, his field goal percentage spiked from 42.4% in 2019-20 to 50.3%, including hitting a career-high 40.0% of his 3-pointers. He averaged career highs with 6.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. He reportedly turned down a 4-year, $60 million extension at the end of the season, betting on himself that he would improve even more in 2021-22.

And improve he did. This past season Miles Bridges averaged career highs with 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. His advanced stats with a PER of 17.9 and VORP of 2.5 place him among the Top 50 players in the NBA.

Using Basketball Reference’s position classifications, only five “power forwards” exceeded Bridges’ VORP of 2.5 - Kevin Love, DeMar DeRozan, Pascal Siakim, Kevin Durant, and Giannis Antentokounmpo.

What this means for the Hornets

Miles Bridges, the Charlotte Hornets, opposing general managers, and the NBA league offices are going to face a difficult offseason in light of the disturbing charges Bridges is facing. Bridges’ overall game, his age, and his continued improvement make him one of the league’s most intriguing young (restricted) free agents based solely on his on-court play, but some things deservedly transcend a player’s ability to score points and pull down rebounds.

Statistically speaking, Miles Bridges had a great season last year. Practically speaking, that means very little right now given what he’s facing off the court.