3 former Phoenix Suns who will excel elsewhere in 2023-24.
1. Mikal Bridges
This may seem like cheating a little bit, since we’ve already gotten a taste of what Mikal Bridges will look like on the Brooklyn Nets. He’s even appeared in the postseason already, but a full year of the 26-year-old as the best player on his own team is going to be something else.
Losing Bridges hurt the Suns, and their defensive woes in the postseason (fourth worst at 118.3) confirmed this. The only reason his departure was manageable is because it meant Durant and the promise of being a contender came the other way, but there is no doubt Bridges more than any other recent former player is going to excel and make Suns fans look on enviously.
Whereas Paul will succeed with the Warriors because he will get to save his body while competing, and Payne will succeed with the Spurs because it represents a great chance to get paid again, the goal for Bridges is to become a top 20 player in the league. This is absolutely achievable, and he should be aiming to become an All-Star next season.
In 27 regular season games with the Nets last season, Bridges saw his points per game shoot up to 26.1 a night (previous best was 17.2, also last season before the trade), while also taking two more 3-pointers per game as well (6.7). His shooting from deep held firm though, as he nailed roughly the same amount (37.6 percent) as he has for most of his career.
As great as all of that is, Bridges didn’t miss a beat defensively, and is rapidly turning into one of the best two-way players in the entire league. He may not be your first option on a championship team, but at this point it is clear he is better than being a player who fits the Aaron Gordon on the Denver Nuggets role of last season as well.
There is a world, and it is one that Suns fans dread to think about, where Durant continues to miss games through injury, and Bridges keeps trending upwards. Should that happen, the what if of keeping Bridges, Cam Johnson and all that draft capital, to pair with Booker, Beal and Ayton, will be huge. Bridges is going to explode in 2023-24.