Phoenix Suns postseason push impact players: Mikal Bridges
3. Mikal Bridges. The long-armed third-year pro is clearly embracing his underdog role in the NBA. The willingness to guard the top star in any opponent’s lineup has Suns fans salivating, especially when combined with a knack for knocking down the 3-pointer.
Through the season’s first eight contests, Bridges has clearly become even more confident in his overall game and always brings the trademark defensive effort. His 14 points per game are five points more than he scored per game last season, and he’s boosted his rebounds from 4.0 to 5.4.
His example on defense has helped spur the Suns to stunning levels of efficiency on defense. Entering play on Thursday, Phoenix was 10th in the NBA for Defensive Rating (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions).
Entering Friday’s road matchup against the Detroit Pistons, Bridges was No. 21 in the league in the Basketball Reference Defensive Box Plus/Minus metric.
The 6-6, 209-pounder from Villanova also brings an improved ability to finish on the break and no hesitation to let it fly on open looks.
Bridges is hitting a staggering 45.8 percent from long range after a strong sophomore season that saw him bury only 36 percent of those attempts.
Most title contenders require two legitimate All-Stars and a strong contribution from Nos. 3 and 4 on the floor. With Chris Paul and Devin Booker eager to handle the top spots, a productive Deandre Ayton complemented by Bridges’ defensive tools and shooting ability can only help the push for the postseason.