It’s no secret that the Phoenix Suns have two of the NBA’s most promising young players in Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson. Both embody extremely versatile wing options, able to guard positions one through five, and also play the two, three, or four.
With these shared characteristics and age at 25-years-old, it’s almost like looking in a mirror with these two.
An All-Star game invite might soon be on the way for both players. If Andrew Wiggins can participate as a starter, Bridges and Johnson cannot be far off themselves.
Regardless of the details though, bright futures lie ahead for both players. However, which guy will have the brighter one remains to be seen.
The case for Mikal Bridges
Bridges already resembles one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders. He stands at six-foot-six, but his wingspan extends to a massive seven-foot-one. Each night, he lines up against the opposing teams’ best offensive players, such as Stephen Curry, LeBron James, or Donovan Mitchell just to name a few based off of Phoenix’s main rivals.
The Warden’s offense is starting to come along as well. After a slow start in the scoring department this year, he’s reached 23 or more points in four of his last six games.
However, Bridges’s 3-point shooting has been a consistent strength for this year. Although his 3-point percentage is a bit down this year from the last, he continues to shoot it at an efficient 37.0 percent clip.
The potential for Bridges remains extremely high. If he were on a team that asked him to shoot more, he could possibly turn into a 20-point per game scorer.
The case for Cameron Johnson
Johnson stands two inches taller than Bridges at six-foot-eight, but he wields a smaller wingspan at six-foot-seven. However, he remains a standout defender all the same.
He was seen as a possible trade chip at the deadline, but the Suns ultimately did want to give him up likely due to his two-way talents. The Suns have been playing Johnson more at the four which makes him a tad more versatile than Bridges, even though Bridges can play there as well.
Johnson, like Bridges, also does not need to score 20 points a game for the Suns, although he likely could for another franchise. Even though Johnson does not always start, he still averages 26.0 minutes per game. On a per 36 minutes rate, he averages 16.5 points per contest.
Johnson also resembles an all-league knockdown shooter from deep. For his career, he shoots 38.8 percent from beyond the arc and finds himself 43.3 percent this year. That number is the league’s third best amongst all players with a minimum of 82 attempts this year, and has him on pace to challenge a franchise record.
Who has the advantage?
The defensive edge should go to Bridges. As mentioned earlier, his lock down play along the wing is top notch. Bridges also possesses quicker foot speed which allows him to stick with even the league’s fastest players. While Johnson is certainly a good defender, Bridges is a great one due to that.
The offensive nod goes to Johnson though. On a 36 minutes per game basis, he averages three more points per game than Bridges. He also does better finishing at the rim due to his size.
It feels much harder to give one player the 3-point crown over the other, which is something both players specialize in. But Bridges is a career 37.5 percent shooter, while Johnson shoots it at 38.9 percent for his career, so statistically, you could say that Johnson owns a slight edge.
Who is better right now?
Right now, Bridges feels like the right answer to that question. He already resembles one of the game’s best defenders and plays the most minutes for the team with the best record in the NBA—something we do not acknowledge nearly enough.
His offense is coming along, his aforementioned defense, and Monty Williams’s trust in him just makes for an incredibly compelling argument on his behalf.
Who has more potential down the road?
These guys are the same age, and neither has come close to their prime yet. While Bridges is probably the better player right now, some could argue that Johnson has an even higher ceiling due to him being one year behind Bridges in years played, and consequently with more room to grow.
Regardless, it will be interesting to see who turns out as the better player down the road. No matter the result, it’s a win-win situation for the Suns as long as they hold on to them both.