Suns Forward Mikal Bridges Reveals Most Difficult NBA Players to Guard

Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

While Devin Booker educates the mass public on scoring and Chris Paul writes dissertations on the art of the pass, Mikal Bridges can be found down the hall giving a lecture on defense every night out for the Phoenix Suns.

Having fallen off last year’s NBA All-Defensive team by just four votes, the Philly native came out with a vengeance this season. As a result, he’s put more people onto an island than most travel agents, at times locking up James Harden, Brandon Ingram, and Damian Lillard just to name a few.

The All-Defensive honor which previously eluded him already looks like a given just a couple months into the 2021-22 season, with a few Defensive Player of the Year nods potentially coming his way as well.

With Bridges fully establishing himself as a premier NBA defender, his opinion on those most skilled at the offensive end naturally holds significant weight. To give Bridges some trouble in his own wheelhouse remains a notable accomplishment, to which everyone around the league now recognizes.

In speaking with Whistle earlier this week to partake in their flagship series with Chipotle titled “No Days Off,” Bridges elaborated on his journey to the top as a high caliber defender. But shortly after, he went on to mention a few of those more difficult defensive assignments. He even named one rival as his “toughest” opponent to lock up—who of course happens to be NBA royalty.

“I think the toughest person in the league physically is probably LeBron [James],” said Bridges. “He’s definitely one of the toughest guys especially having a lot more pounds over me.”

Bridges, who weighs 41-pounds less than James, has done relatively well against him this year despite that size difference. Although the Suns remain a switch-heavy team, Bridges primarily guarded James during their first bout this season and did so quite well, forcing him to shoot just 8-18 from the field and turn it over five times.

Although James did bounce back with a solid 34 points on 13-19 shooting the next time they met, Bridges still helped the Suns come through with some solid defensive sequences as a team, giving way to a 108-90 victory.

But not to leave off the Western Conference’s next biggest name, Bridges also showed respect to two-time MVP Stephen Curry, mentioning the significant effort it takes to chase him across the hardwood as well.

“I think one of the exhausting players is probably Steph cause of how much he moves without the ball, and he can shoot it so well so you have to guard him 40 feet out,” Bridges said. “He can pass, he does all the right things, and his conditioning is really high up.”

While defending Chef Curry, Bridges resembles a more consistent kryptonite.

During Curry’s three games against Bridges and the Suns this year, he averaged 22.7 points while shooting just 32.4 percent from the field and 13.7 percent from three. Those numbers all stand significantly lower than his marks for the season thus far.

The scariest part of all this? Bridges is just 25-years-old. His prime years have yet to be seen, and it will likely stay that way for some time.

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That means the “Mikal Jail” population will only continue to rise as Bridges inches toward his peak, slapping the cuffs on more NBA stars and throwing away the key. If he clears concussion protocols, Donovan Mitchell might become his next inmate, with Phoenix set to take on the Utah Jazz for the second time in three days tonight.