Most casual NBA fans are familiar with the names Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, whereas the Phoenix Suns Mikal Bridges is not a household name but can be with a little more growth.
Entering the 2018 NBA Draft, the ‘3&D’ player was among the hottest commodities in basketball, with every team looking for the next Kawhi or PG13. Teams wanted someone who could be effective on both ends of the floor and play well alongside others.
To this day, George and Leonard are archetypes of the modern NBA wing. Their size, defensive prowess, and shooting touch have earned them illustrious professional careers.
Lots of comparisons between the Suns’ Bridges and Clippers duo
Considered a low-floor prospect, the expectation for Mikal Bridges coming out of Villanova was not to be a superstar like Leonard or George but rather to serve as an elite rotational player. However, the before-mentioned superstars did not have such expectations out of college either.
All three wings played multiple years of college basketball, which is becoming increasingly uncommon among the NBA’s elite. George and Leonard entered the draft as 20-year-old sophomores, while Bridges was a 22-year-old junior. Bridges and George share a similar draft experience, being selected 10th overall and traded on draft night.
At 26 years of age, Mikal Bridges will more than likely never achieve the level of stardom that the Clippers wing pair has. In his own right, Bridges is among the league’s elite wings, and George and Leonard set that bar.
Mikal has developed into one of the NBA’s top perimeter defenders. Second in Defensive Player of the Year voting one year ago, he is garnering national attention for his ability to guard multiple positions at an elite level. His offensive game has also continued to grow as he has increased his scoring every season, pacing to set a new career high at almost 16 points per game.
A massive factor in Phoenix’s poor December stretch has been inconsistent play from Bridges, who has not shot over 50% from the floor in a game since the first week of December and boasts a +/- of -77 in the Suns’ five consecutive losses. When Mikal is off his game, it is tough for the Suns to overcome, especially with other scorers hurt. This was apparent in his 4-24 performance against the Rockets, but someone had to shoot with Deandre Ayton, Cameron Payne, and Devin Booker all out.
Though not as luxurious a name as George or Leonard, Bridges has been an integral part of Phoenix’s success and is one of basketball’s more valuable players. Whether it be guarding the opponent’s best player on a nightly basis, playing 40 minutes of basketball, or spacing the floor for teammates, the Suns would not be where they are without Mikal.