Fresh off a second national title in three years, Villanova guard/forward Mikal Bridges is taking his talents to the National Basketball Association.
Bridges will skip his senior season, as predicted, and play his his next campaign with the professionals instead.
The 6’7″ Great Valley product is a projected lottery pick, a guy who averaged 17.7 points and 5.3 rebounds as a redshirt junior playing on the nation’s best team. Bridges shot a wonderful 51.4% this season and hit three pointers at a 43.5% clip, a big reason why Villanova became the only Big East team in the last 20 years to shoot 50% from the field & 40% from three for a season.
Bridges is the 2018 Julius Erving Award winner as college basketball’s top small forward. He’s regarded as one of the best two-way prospects in the draft, with a 7’2″ wing span and defensive flexibility that allows him to guard multiple positions while slashing to the rim and hitting triples on the offensive end. In an era where the NBA values “three and D” players, Bridges fits the bill perfectly.
He echoed those sentiments when speaking with ESPN:
“There’s space in the NBA on the floor, and there’s this move toward positionless basketball that I fit into,” Bridges told ESPN. “I can shoot the ball. I can defend. I can move without the ball. I’m progressing in my game, getting better through work every day.
“They weren’t phenoms when they came out of school,” Bridges said. “They weren’t always on top and dominating. They were very low-key guys. They kept getting better and better.”
Is Mikal a fit for the Sixers?
Brett Brown values this player, the Robert Covington type who operates like a Swiss-army knife on defense, showing the athleticism to switch at will and guard both bigger and smaller players. That’s always been one of Bridges’ strengths, seamlessly sliding into different positions on different opponents with little drop off.
You see it here when he goes over a screen and then slides with the center:
You see Bridges then cut off the dribble-drive before sliding back out with the center, active arms and excellent footwork the entire way. I know that’s against a cupcake like Nicholls State, but it’s a good example of his defensive fluidity and instincts.
Here’s another clip where Villanova starts in their customary three-quarter court press:
You’re not going to see that 1-2-2 in the NBA, but look at how easily Bridges slides from the tip of the spear to the shooting guard, back to the point guard, then over to the power forward with no real issue at all. He was athletic enough to easily play the top of that soft press, even at 6’7″ and 210 pounds.
And here’s a beautiful sequence where he posterizes some poor guy at one end, then stuffs another in defensive transition:
So yea, as someone who plays versatile defense and shoots the three, he would certainly be valued by the Sixers. The biggest obstacle to Bridges staying in Philadelphia might be the Knicks…
Villanova’s Mikal Bridges has fans in the Knicks’ organization… https://t.co/I9jnvxHTdy
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) April 10, 2018
…and any other lottery team that needs a reliable and steady wing.
I think the Kawhi Leonard and Paul George comparisons are a bit much for now, but Otto Porter, Jr. is a good start. Maybe Khris Middleton? I just don’t see Bridges being a guy who averages 20 points per game in the NBA, not in year one or two at least. You’re not going to see him blow by defenders off the dribble or create a ton of shots on his own, which is something Sixers fans should be very familiar with, especially if you watched the second unit at any point in the 2017 part of the schedule. Markelle Fultz, Bridges is not.
But what he can be is a very nice complimentary piece, a versatile floor spacer who can hit the open shot and provide a third option when necessary. Most mocks have him going in the 10 to 14 range, where the Sixers will likely assume the Lakers’ pick, so we’ll see where Bridges ends up falling. Philly doesn’t need a superstar and they won’t get one in Bridges, but they could really add somebody who perfectly fits the identity they’ve carved out.
Plus, if you get LeBron James this offseason…
…ah never mind, we’ll just end the article here. We’ll do a deeper dive on Bridges as we get closer to the draft.