The Phoenix Suns didn’t beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night, but rookie Mikal Bridges got a shout out from OKC head coach Billy Donovan after the game:

That’s what I said last year watching Bridges cruise to a national title with Villanova.

The Great Valley product returns home tonight, a little less than five months after the Sixers selected him 10th overall in the NBA draft, then decided to send him out west for Zhaire Smith and a 2021 first-round draft pick instead.

There was a lot of conflict over that move at the time. Here was a prototypical two-way prospect who made a ton of sense for the 76ers. That’s what they needed, right? They needed perimeter defense and some shooting off the bench. That’s how you compete with the Celtics and the Raptors, or so we thought.

Certainly the trade is not nearly as big of a deal as it was back then, not with Jimmy Butler in town and the Sixers looking pretty darn good at the moment.

But Bridges has had a nice run so far. He put up 14 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals in Saturday night’s game before fouling out. He shot 4-7 from the floor and 3-5 from the three point line, which is about as good as can be expected from a rookie 3 and D guy playing on a rebuilding team.

On the season, Mikal is averaging 7.7 points per game while shooting 37% from three. Head coach Igor Kokoškov has him playing about 19 minutes off the bench. Mikal started the last two games in place of Trevor Ariza, but Ariza will be back in the starting lineup tonight after “handling a personal matter.”

Bridges is getting more playing time and being more assertive in November, compared to the first month of the season:

Smith, of course, has not played a single minute as he continues to recover from a Jones fracture and separate allergy issue that has kept him sidelined. You can’t revisit the trade to determine “who won” when one of the two guys hasn’t even hit the floor yet, nor would I even want to do it less than 20 games into each guy’s rookie season. We’ll give it a year or two and see what happens. And then we’ll give it another year or two to see what happens with the draft pick.

Still, it looks like Mikal is doing pretty well so far.

He looks like a young Robert Covington in this clip:

And here’s a stat from Andy Bailey:

“The Suns are outscoring opponents by 10.5 PTS per 100 possessions when Mikal Bridges is on the floor. They’re being outscored by 21.7 PTS per 100 possessions when he’s off. That’s a Net Rating swing of +32.2.”


Not sure if that says more about Mikal or the Suns’ defense as a whole, but we’ll get to see him in Philadelphia tonight, and only tonight.