Phoenix Suns Player Grades Through First Quarter of 2021-22 Season

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
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Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges
Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Grading Phoenix Suns Starters: Mikal Bridges

Current Stats: 12.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 53.8/40.5/85.2 splits, 60.6 eFG%

Mikal Bridges looks like a perfect example of a player who takes a leap before the masses catch on, but then remains consistent at that level, rather than improving to gain further notice. By the numbers, it seems like he plateaued a bit. But when you look at things optically, that is certainly not the case.

This year, Bridges took up the reins as tertiary (and sometimes secondary) ball handler depending on lineup construct. In doing this, he typically plays it safe, rarely taking significant risks.

Aside from his signature lane filling dashes for transition baskets, and his half court cuts to generate more offense, his play making duties are now on full display this year.

Bridges runs more pick-and-roll or dribble handoffs sequences now, even initiating the offense himself from time to time. He easily attacks closeouts, and finishes with a pull-up.

Bridges’s midrange shot looks a bit inconsistent right now, but he keeps embracing his growth with touches. He sometimes looks a bit timid under this expanded role, but that comes as no surprise given his past. With some more time, he likely opens things up.

His increased mid-range attempts best illustrate this. Last year,  22.0 percent of his attempts came from the midrange. But through this season’s first quarter, that number has risen to 33.0 percent, quietly equalling his share of 3-point attempts.

At the rim, Bridges looks better than ever, sporting a 41.7 percent conversion rate on and-one chances. His frequent cuts inside make him susceptible to drawing fouls, which makes this improved component within his game terrifying for opposing defenses.

But even with these elevations at the offensive end, his defensive leaps look most impressive. With one-on-one assignments, he did well against legendary scorers like Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Stephen Curry.

Bridges’s long frame combined with his lateral quickness, hand speed, and IQ make him an elite stopper. He never sticks to screens, which allows him to negate early shot clock offense.

He also frequently blows up dribble-handoffs and ball screens by closing airspace without impeding a dribbler’s progress—which in itself remains a key skill.

This defense makes him All-NBA worthy (again), and in tandem with Ayton to help around back, he drives this top tier defense for the Suns. They still need his offense to come around, but again, just give him some more time on that.

Grade: A-