Phoenix Suns: Mikal Bridges could be a Kawhi Leonard clone

Phoenix Suns v Detroit Pistons
Phoenix Suns v Detroit Pistons /

When the Phoenix Suns drafted Mikal Bridges, there were mixed reactions, but now he is showing all the tools to become a Kawhi Leonard clone.

Phoenix Suns‘ do-everything player, Mikal Bridges, had nicknames in college that ranged from the “Praying Mantis” to “Inspector Go Go Gadget,” but his mom liked to use “Noodles” because he was skinny and his arms freakishly long.

Villanova head coach, Jay Wright, had more to say about Bridges than his nicknames, though. When asked if he sees elements of Kawhi Leonard in Bridges: the length, the hustle, the two-way skill set, Wright said:

"Wright replied, “Definitely. If you pick an NBA player, that would definitely be the guy,” Wright tells me, though he doesn’t like comparing his players to NBA players. “I think [Mikal] could develop into that kind of player, maybe a little more offensive-oriented when he comes in. … He has to continue to build his body to be as effective as Kawhi was defensively and in rebounding. Very, very similar.”"

Phoenix Suns’ Mikal Bridges could be the next Kawhi Leonard.

If I had seen that quote as late as last year I would have said Coach Wright was dead wrong! I was ready to ship Mikal Bridges out in the next trade; I felt that the Suns management had blown another first-round pick because Bridges was soft and tentative.

Coming out of college, Bridges had a horrible hitch in his shot that the Suns had been trying to fix since they drafted him. That shot was not fixed even by the end of March of his rookie year when he still had many 0 for 5, 1 for 6 nights.

To be fair, maybe my dislike for Bridges’ game was based on transference anger from the drafting of Bender and Chriss who were drafted two years prior, and then Josh Jackson the next. Maybe it was that I wanted the Suns to trade up and get Trae Young to go along with the guy they took instead of Luka Doncic, or maybe it was when they got the #10 pick and I thought, “GOOD, they are going to draft Shai Gilgeous-Alexander!”

The Suns had seven guys on their roster before that pick that could be a point guard in the G-League, each one worse than the next one up, but one of them would end up being the Suns’ starting point guard in 2018-2019. No good GM would allow that to happen.

With that in mind, what did the Suns do? They drafted a small forward named Mikal Bridges, even though we had the great Josh Jackson and TJ Warren? Until this year, I thought that pick should have been SGA…maybe it still should have been, but a possible Kawhi Leonard clone, color me interested.

More from Valley of the Suns

If you take a look at Mikal Bridges’ stats over his first two years, they have literally mirrored Kawhi Leonard’s give or take a point or two including Mikal averaging 8.3 points in his first year, while Kawhi averaged 7.9 points his rookie year.

In fact, over their first two years, Mikal has had 84 blocks, 231 steals, and 556 rebounds…while Leonard has blocked just 56 shots, stolen 182 balls, and had 673 rebounds! Mikal is the reason I think that the Suns will trade the fun-to-watch Kelly Oubre at the draft or before the deadline since he is not worth $20 million-plus after next season.

In 2014-2015 after a good NBA Finals in his fourth year, “The Klaw” matured into a future star named Kawhi Leonard. Wouldn’t it be amazing if after so many wrong first-round draft picks, one not named Devin Booker may actually turn out to be a great pick?

He’s not Leonard yet, but starting his third season, he has a different kind of promise that Suns fans haven’t seen since Devin Booker.

Next. Ranking the best shooting guards in the NBA this season. dark