Zhaire Smith | Robert Williams | Keita Bates-Diop | Miles Bridges | Josh Okogie | Chandler Hutchison
Miles Bridges is very similar to our other draft prospect breakdown today: Robert Williams III. Like Williams, Bridges forwent entering the NBA Draft last season to return to his college team for a sophomore season. While Bridges ultimately fell short of his goal of bringing the Michigan State Spartans a championship, the extra year helped him adapt his game to more of a small forward role than power forward where he played the majority of his freshman season. Given the fact he’d be undersized for a power forward, his development as a small forward should help him immensely, even if it might not have helped his draft stock.
Height w/shoes: 6’ 6.75”
Weight: 220 lbs
Wingspan: 6’ 9.5”
Standing reach: 8’ 7.5”
Body fat: 5.9%
Hand length: 9”
Athleticism: The thing that is the most eye popping about Bridges is his ridiculous athleticism. He elected to not participate in any of the draft combine strength and agility drills so there was no official measurement of his vertical but going back to when he first came to Michigan State we’ve got footage of him maxing out the vert test and touching the top of the backboard. Dudes got hops. He’s also built like a bulldog. Despite being undersized Bridges was more than capable of holding his own against big men in college and has an NBA body already.
Vert test today pic.twitter.com/mCDXBjoRo1— Miles Bridges (@MilesBridges) June 30, 2016
Defense: Bridges is just what the doctor ordered fro the Denver Nuggets on defense. That strength and athleticism gives him the physical tools he needs to be a great defender. He’s got the lateral quickness to stay with threes on the perimeter and the strength to body up fours in the post. It’s more than just the physical tools though. Bridges has very good defensive instincts and rarely gets beat off the dribble. He also has shown the ability to change direction on a dime meaning he won’t be getting his ankles broken on the regular. To go with the instincts and physical tools he’s got the effort as well. You don’t see Bridges go under screens very often and you won’t see him shy away from contact. He’s versatile enough to guard 2-4 so he’ll fit right in in today’s NBA where versatility is all the rage.
Shooting consistency: Not everything is there to love for Bridges when it comes to shooting, and we’ll get into that in the weaknesses section, but there’s no doubt that he’s consistently productive with his jumpshot, especially from three point range. He was a career 37.5% three point shooter on over 5 attempts a game at Michigan State. While that’s the college three point line and not the NBA three point line, it still projects very well for the next level. Take into account that Bridges worked hard to become an 85% free throw shooter (was 68% his freshman year) and there’s plenty of reason to believe he will be an effective shooter in the NBA.
Shooting quickness: This may be nitpicking because as I said, Bridges was very consistent with his shot, but his shooting motion is pretty slow and he brings the ball down to his hip when he starts it. Bridges is primarily a catch and shoot player so in the NBA where the margins between being covered and being open are razor thin he might have trouble getting his shot off. Luckily it looks like a fairly easy thing to fix. His motion itself is as pure as anyone’s so if he can just focus on starting it closer to his head rather than his torso he’ll be fine. His shooting motion also reminds me a lot of Darrell Arthur so there’s reason to believe Bridges will be able to be an effective shooter at the NBA level even if he doesn’t change where he starts his shot from.
Playmaking: Bridges athleticism allows him to get by guys at the perimeter with an explosive first step but other than that he’s pretty limited when it comes to creating for himself or others. He doesn’t have a great handle and with the aforementioned slow shooting motion it’s hard for him to create shot opportunities by taking his man off the dribble. He’s also not a great passer and wasn’t looked to at Michigan State to create for others. This isn’t a huge negative as it’s not often a SF is a creator for his teammates but anyone who thinks Bridges is going to follow the trend of wings becoming de facto point guards is going to be sorely disappointed.
Size: No, the little blurb on the right when you google “Miles Bridges” that says he has a seven foot wingspan is not correct. Bridges has always been described as a tweener forward but he’s more so got the size of a 2-3 combo. That’s not really his game though and he’s played almost exclusively at one of the two forward spots in his career. At 6’6” he’s going to be smaller than most small forwards and virtually all power forwards. He’s got the physical tools to do it and he’s shown that capability on the court in the Big 10 but the fact of the matter is if he’s 6’8” with a 7’ wingspan then he’s easily a top 10 pick rather than possibly a late lottery guy.
Fit with the Nuggets
Tremendous. Miles Bridges is an excellent Wilson Chandler replacement long term but also is capable of starting day 1 if Chandler were to opt out and the Nuggets were unable to retain Barton. He’d instantly become their best perimeter defender (no offense to Gary Harris) and he has the shooting and off ball skills to be very effective playing with Nikola Jokic. His weaknesses are also mitigated by Denver’s roster. They don’t need Bridges to be a creator, they have enough between the other four guys he’d be on the court with. Jokic would find Bridges with plenty open looks to make up for the slow shooting motion and despite being undersized, there’s no player better than Paul Millsap to help show Bridges how to use his strength and positioning to be an incredibly effective defender.
There also seems to be a legit chance the Bridges will be there at pick 14. Despite being billed as a top ten guy throughout much of the year, the latest scuttlebutt among draft experts is that Bridges could slide. In fact, on ESPN’s latest mock draft they have Bridges falling to 14 and the Nuggets selecting him. If that were to happen its a slam dunk (no pun intended) for the Nuggets. Indeed, the name “Bridges” is one to pay close attention to in the week leading up to, and during, the NBA Draft when it comes to Denver. If you want even more info on Bridges, check out our Stiffs Prospect Watch piece on him by none other than resident Stiffs draft expert Daniel Lewis.