Mikal Bridges has continued to show his value for the Phoenix Suns

Mikal Bridges Phoenix Suns (Photo by Barry Gossage NBAE via Getty Images)
Mikal Bridges Phoenix Suns (Photo by Barry Gossage NBAE via Getty Images) /

The second-year swingman has continued to play within himself and projects well as a foundation piece for the Phoenix Suns to build around.

Let’s take a short trip back to the 2018 NBA draft. Forgive me for skipping the Deandre Ayton/Luka Doncic debate; there will be another time for that discussion. No, we’re moving a little bit further into the draft, just after the first few picks, where Mikal Bridges has just been drafted 10th overall by Philadelphia and then traded to the Phoenix Suns for the rights to Zhaire Smith and a future first-round pick.

When Bridges was drafted, his scouting report was essentially that of a prototypical 3-and-D  wing with elite length and athleticism to go along with a quietly polished skill-set.  His defensive tenacity,  ability to hit three-pointers at a high volume, and solid decision making led many to feel that Bridges would fit right in with few hiccups at the pro level, especially with a skill-set tailor-made for the NBA.

Let’s move to the 2018-2019 NBA season. Mikal’s rookie year was like many in the NBA for newcomers: bumpy, but with bright spots of promising play. Slotted behind the mercurial Trevor Ariza at the start of the season, Bridges quickly outplayed him and earned starting duties by November of that year.

The second-year swingman’s reliable play and tailor-made NBA skillset have him nearly guaranteed a role on the next great Suns team.

He would establish early career highs in both scoring and assists in February, and while he would ultimately finish the season with much to improve, there was still plenty to be encouraged by. Bridges would conclude the year with 8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per contest, while also being the only member of the Phoenix Suns to play every game.

This season has seen more of the same reliable play by Bridges, at least from the basic stat-line. With 8.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists, the numbers would make it appear as if the production is remarkably similar. However, a closer look does reveal some positive signs of improvement.

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To begin with, although Bridges is taking close to the same amount of shots a night (at just over six a game) he has improved his efficiency, going from 43% last season to 51% this year. Mikal has also boosted his three-point accuracy, even while bombing away fewer times per game this season over his rookie year.

Not one to necessarily be considered a prolific scoring threat, Bridges established a career-high in points this season in Boston with 26 big ones including six three-pointers in a January win, and although his value can not be ascertained solely on his scoring numbers it is nevertheless an encouraging figure.

Bridges’ defense so far in his career has been solid; his rebounding steady. He may not be a consistent15-20 point per night scorer, however with his length, versatility, and defensive tenacity, there are only bigger and brighter things ahead for the young swingman. This is promising news for Suns fans, as it appears more and more likely that he will be a foundational piece of the next great Phoenix Suns team.

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