As the NBA has begun to transition to a more positionless game, guys like Mikal Bridges are becoming more valuable in today’s game. The ability to switch one through four and knock down threes are more valuable than ever. Bridges is the perfect new age wing and will be able to effortlessly transition into just about any scheme and any team. Coming from a winning culture like Villanova’s you know he has all the right intangibles and winning attitude. Similar to Josh Hart last year and his seamless transition to the Lakers, Bridges should be able to do the same but is more talented and athletically gifted.
Mikal Bridges is built like many wings in today’s game, extremely long standing at 6’7 with a 7’2 wingspan. Bridges only weighs about 210 pounds and has an extremely lean frame that will need to continue to be filled out. It will be interesting to see how much more weight he can add after putting on 30 pounds since stepping on Villanova’s campus four years ago.
Bridges uses his length to jump passing lanes and stifle ball handlers, especially smaller point guards. He’s exceptional on closeouts because of the ground he can cover not just with his long legs but the reach of his arms.
He will immediately be able to switch one through four in small-ball lineups which adds another plus to physique, it allows him to be extremely versatile. In addition to his defense, he has shown a nice ability to rebound including on the offensive end where his length is a huge advantage. In all facets of the game, Bridges does a good job of utilizing his length in his game.
Bridges was able to improve his shooting from three every year while at Villanova. That shooting is one his most valuable skills he brings to the table. During his redshirt junior year, he showed legitimate three-and-D potential. During his senior year, his shooting motion became more fluid allowing him to extend his range. This change in his stroke will allow him to seamlessly transition to the deeper NBA three-point arc. In addition to the range it allowed him a smoother jumper to shoot coming off screens, something he rarely got to do at Villanova but in his limited opportunities did show an ability to do well.
This shooting allows him to attack close out really well. Villanova players are drilled hard on shot fakes and pivots and all usually come into the league with great footwork. Bridges isn’t a great ball handler yet as we will get into but he does have the ability to attack closeouts with straight line drives to the basket. The beauty of his offensive game is the fact that he doesn’t need to be fed offensive opportunities. He has an ability to rack up points playing in the flow of the offense and does a great job of keeping the ball moving. He takes the jumpers as they are presented and plays just like a smart three-and-D wing should. This is why he is one of the few top players in this draft who has an immediate role in the league and should have no trouble getting minutes early on.
As he grows in the league Mikal Bridges is going to need to improve his handle. Luckily for him improving your ball handling is one of the easiest skills for basketball players to improve. He’s already shown some flashes of playmaking ability when attacking the basket and adding an improved handle will only help that blossom. As the handle improves he will have more chances to grab the rebound and go as he is already an excellent rebounder. Like mentioned above Bridges as of now is really only a guy who can attack closeouts and is more of a straight line driver at this point in his game.
NBA Comparison: Trevor Ariza
Not the sexiest name for a potential top ten pick comparison but one that is accurate based on the style of play, physique, and makeup. Bridges certainly has a higher ceiling but Trevor Ariza has turned himself into of the premier three-and-D wings in the league playing for Houston the last few years. Ariza is a really solid defender who can defend a variety of positions just like Bridges should be able to. While Bridges is probably a better shooter, Ariza has developed his three-point shot to be a respected shooter in the league. In addition to these similar skills neither is a particularly skilled ball handler or driver but both are no doubt able to get to the cup. Bridges athleticism should allow him to have a better career than Ariza along with his shooting acumen. If Bridges game grows as expected he may soon be described as a rich man’s Trevor Ariza.