Even though the Phoenix Suns are winning, Mikal Bridges numbers are down this year thus far. Does that mean he is in a sophomore slump? If so, will it last?
The sophomore slump. It is an enigma that has haunted even some of the most prestigious NBA players. At a glance, it might look like Mikal Bridges is sliding into this proverbial black hole despite the Phoenix Suns early win column success.
Don’t expect it to last.
If you look at Bridges’ points, the most classic of all statistical categories, he finished last year with an 8.3 per game average. This year, however, he is down by nearly half that mark at 4.7 points per game.
Same goes for assists.
Last year, as a rookie, the Villanova product finished a little better than two assists per game, where this year he is averaging just one per contest.
Here is the key third statistic that paints the a better picture of the first two: this minutes have also been cut nearly in half.
Last year, on a Phoenix Suns team devoid of much talent, Bridges started 56 games and played nearly 30 minutes average in all 82.
This year, on a much deeper Phoenix Suns team, Bridges has only playing a shade over 19 minutes per game.
While his points and assists have correlated with decrease in minutes, his rebounds and steals have not. In actuality, they have remained the same, right at 3 and 1.7 respectively.
To translate that into more tangible statistics, his per-36 minute numbers are roughly the same or better than last year across the board.
One could argue he is not in a slump at all, sophomore or not.
The only area where he has genuinely diminished has been 3-point shooting. After making over 33% from deep his rookie season, he is off to a slow start, only making one of his seven attempts (14%) this season thus far.
That is likely due a small sample size and is probably an anomaly.
Expect that figure to return to the mean and when it does, Bridges will be playing with much more efficiently than last year, in what I assume will remain to be a reduced role, minute-wise.
The way he can earn a bump in playing time is to fit the mold of Kelly Oubre Jr. He is arguably as good if not a slightly better defender, and if he injects that same aggression on the offensive end of the court, he can serve as an interchangeable backup to the flashy starter.
Regardless, even if he maintains the status quo, this is no sophomore slump for Mikal Bridges. He is playing better than his numbers suggest, and will only get better.