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March Madness Prospect Watch Day 4: Miles Bridges

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Prospect Watch continues with a high ceiling forward that possesses the athletic ability to stand out at the next level: Miles Bridges.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Michigan State vs Miami Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Miles Bridges - Michigan State

Projected draft spot: 12th (Draft Express), 20th (CBS Sports), 12th (ESPN)

Stats: 31.9 minutes, 16.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 48.7 FG%, 39.1 3PT%, 68.7 FT%

Strengths: Athletic Ability, Slashing, Inside/Outside Combo, Rebounding, Defensive Potential

Weaknesses: Low Steal Numbers, Height, Lack of defined position

Game Time: Sunday v.s. Kansas @ 3:15 PM MST

What to watch for: An athletic forward out of Michigan State, Miles Bridges had a strong freshmen season on an underwhelming team, leading the Spartans in a multitude of categories like points, rebounds, blocks, three point attempts, as well as finishing highly in many others. Among this year’s freshmen class, Bridges isn’t considered one of the elite prospects because of his size for a forward. At just 6’6 and 226 pounds the last time he was measured (probably lighter now), Bridges plays the power forward at Michigan State in a similar way Justise Winslow played it at Duke.

While Winslow made the transition to the wing in the pros, Bridges is unlikely to follow suit. Instead, he’s likely to play a forward position like former Spartan Draymond Green. Bridges and Green share many physical similarities in their game, and their final seasons at Michigan State are similar as well.

Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3PT% FT%
Draymond Green ('12) 33.2 16.2 10.6 3.8 1.5 0.9 44.9 38.8 72.3
Miles Bridges ('17) 31.9 16.7 8.3 2.1 0.7 1.6 48.7 39.1 68.7

To be clear, I don’t think Miles Bridges will be the next Draymond Green. It gives me confidence though knowing that head coach Tom Izzo put Bridges in a position as a freshmen that Green was in as a senior, and Bridges didn’t completely fail. He has some work to do, clearly, regarding his playmaking, his attention to detail defensively, and being the effort warrior that Green has been his entire career. That being said, in an offense like the Nuggets run, Bridges would flourish as a spot up shooter, slasher, and cutter to complement Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris.

In his next game against Kansas, Bridges will go toe-to-toe with a tournament favorite, as well as one of the best defenders in the country in Josh Jackson. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top in this battle, because even if Bridges wins his matchup, it likely won’t be enough to top the Jayhawks. That being said, all eyes will be on whether Bridges will rise to the occasion and make the plays necessary to compete with a top team. I’m expecting him to struggle a bit this game, but how he handles his business on the defensive end should be independent of any struggles offensively.

If Bridges is available for the Nuggets to select in the draft, it will be hard to say no. With Danilo Gallinari potentially exiting in free agency, a strong forward prospect could be just what Denver needs to replace him long term. Bridges is hardly a lock to translate well to the next level, but the Nuggets need an injection of athleticism, and if there’s one thing Bridges will do, it’s get up.