With the Denver Nuggets in need of wing depth the name Bridges has come up quite a bit. Some may be talking about Miles Bridges, the combo forward from Michigan State who’s defensive prowess and athleticism make him a tantalizing prospect for Denver. However, most are likely dreaming of Mikal Bridges, the rangy sharp shooting and equally impressive defender from reigning national champion Villanova. Mikal fits a major hole in the Nuggets rotation and is entering the NBA ready to immediately make an impact on a team. Outside of Luka Doncic, there might not be a better prospect for the Nuggets in terms of fit and talent.
Height: 6’ 7”
Wingspan: 7’ 0.5”
*Bridges did not attend the measurement portion of the draft combine
Defensive ability: The number one selling point to Bridges game is on the defensive end. He’s developed into a supremely talented perimeter defender and its easy to tell why. Bridges long wingspan makes him a difficult player to get around and he’s got the quickness to go with it. He also possesses a high defensive IQ which allows him to be a superb defender off ball as well as on. Once again, when off ball his length and quickness comes into play. Bridges can close out with great quickness on a shooter and uses his length to generate turnovers in the passing lanes while also being a surprisingly solid help defender at the rim.
Shooting: Bridges has all the makes of an elite 3 and D player in the NBA. To go with his stifling defense comes some serious shooting chops. He started out as a sub 30% three point shooter at Villanova but by the end of last season Mikal was shooting over 43% from beyond the arc. His numbers from behind an NBA three point line are above league average as well (NBA or NCAA). There’s plenty of reason to believe the rise in shooting is real and not just an anomaly. Bridges has always been a fantastic free throw shooter, including hitting a 91% clip his sophomore season, and his efficiency has always been excellent. He has never shot below 50% from the field and has never had below a 63% true shooting percentage in his college career.
Strength: It only takes one look at Mikal to figure out he’s still got some work to do in the weight room to become an elite NBA defender. With his quickness and length but slight frame and not overwhelming height the natural way to attack Bridges on defense is going to be to try to get him into the post and make him defend the paint 1 on 1. Luckily, there’s not a ton of post play from wings going on these days so his lack of strength should be able to be hid fairly well. However, you have to imagine he’s going to struggle stopping dribble penetration from the stronger wings in the game as well. For all his great length, at the end of the day a guy like LeBron James is just going to bully ball Bridges right to the rack. He will especially need to add strength if he’s going to play some small ball four.
Creation: Bridges is at his best as a catch and shoot guy, outside of that at most you want to ask him to pump fake, take one dribble and then shoot. If he has to create with the ball in his hands its where he runs into trouble. He doesn’t possess a very good handle and lacks creativity with the basketball. While he has a decent first step and can finish with both hands that’s about it in terms of his one on one ability. He also isn’t a great creator for others. Mikal hasn’t shown to be effective in the pick and roll as a ball handler so without great ability to penetrate and dish either it’s hard to find ways he will create open shots for his teammates.
Fit with Nuggets
Like Miles Bridges, Mikal Bridges would be an excellent fit for the Nuggets because he addresses their two biggest needs on the wing: defense and depth. Mikal is a day one starter in the NBA and could immediately replace Wilson Chandler should he decide to opt out. If Chandler were to opt in then the Nuggets could use Mikal to replace some of Will Barton’s bench scoring if he leaves in the offseason and by this time next year, when Chandler is an unrestricted free agent, the Nuggets would be set with their starting SF of the future to grow with their core. Unfortunately the chances of Mikal being there at #14 when the Nuggets pick seem to be almost zero. It’s hard to imagine the Philadelphia 76ers, who could use Bridges skillset as well and also have the allure of being his hometown team, will pass on him if he is there at pick #10 and there’s also been rumors that the New York Knicks at #9 are high on Mikal. Of course there are those who think he should go even higher so if Denver is dead set on getting him, look for them to move up to somewhere between 5-8 to do it.
Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and say I think Mikal Bridges should go top five.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) June 19, 2018