Has Phoenix Suns forward taken a step toward stardom?

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Known for defense and availability, the trend in the last few games is that this Phoenix Suns forward has taken a big step toward NBA stardom.

About three weeks ago, the Phoenix Suns were mired in a losing streak and struggled to find consistent scoring. At the time, it seemed the Suns were destined to continue to sink, with no reliable scoring in sight as Mikal Bridges struggled with his responsibility as the number one option in Phoenix. A few weeks on and a couple of healthy players later, Bridges suddenly looks like a consistent 20-point-a-night scorer, and the Suns are again climbing in the Western Conference. So we must ask, what has changed, and has Mikal leaped stardom?

Volume a big difference in Bridges and Suns’ success

During much of the time Phoenix has spent without superstar Devin Booker, the Suns made few changes. In many respects, for about a month, the team ran the same offense and played with different players with little success. Over the last few weeks, however, Phoenix has realized things need to run a bit differently, leading directly to a greater volume for Bridges and a lot of buckets in return.

A streaky shooter, Mikal has not precisely been hot over the last nine games during this scoring run. In only four out of the nine games, Bridges equaled or eclipsed the 50% shooting mark. Instead, what we have seen is Mikal’s usage going up.

Usage percentage, as defined by in basketball, is a percentage estimate of the plays involving a player while they are on the floor. Over the first 43 games of the season, Bridges had a usage percentage above 20% 11 times, which is ~26% of the time. During this scoring run, we have seen Bridges’ usage percentage skyrocket.

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In seven of the last nine games, Bridges has had a usage rate of over 20%. This increased usage rate has led to more consistent opportunities to score, which has seen Bridges’ points per game go up. Still averaging a shade under 17 points per game on the season, Mikal has averaged 23 points per night over the last nine.

Of course, whenever Devin Booker returns, we should expect Bridges’ usage to come back down, as will his looks. However, this run has shown that Mikal can be a consistent scoring option and should still get a lot of looks at the number two option on the team down the stretch.

Has Mikal taken a step toward superstardom? It is probably a bit premature to make that proclamation. However, we have learned over the last few weeks that Bridges has not hit his ceiling yet, and the dynamic forward still has more room to grow, which should be music to the ears of Suns fans.

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