(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
On Draft Day this past June, the Philadelphia 76ers traded 10th Overall Pick Mikal Bridges to the Phoenix Suns for 16th Overall Pick Zhaire Smith and a 2021 First Round Pick.
If his start is any indication, the Suns will end up thanking Philadelphia for a long time.
Mikal Bridges is one of the most exciting young 3-and-D players in the NBA, and will only continue to get better.
Over the last three games, Suns coach Igor Kokoškov has listened to Suns fans chirping about the potential of the 22-year-old from Villanova. He got the starting call after Ariza temporarily left the team for “personal reasons,” and started against Philadelphia even with Ariza returning (Ryan Anderson sat–a relief for Suns fans).
Bridges not only leads rookies in steals but is shooting .370 from beyond the arc and is fourth in 3-pointers made among rookies. The concern for his ability to create off the dribble has lessened significantly, as it seems the Suns training staff has worked with him on that front.
Coming from Villanova, Bridges knows how to win games. He won two national championships and worked with coach Jay Wright, who the Suns were looking at for their head coach position before bringing in Kokoškov from the Jazz.
Bridges was one of the catalysts in the Suns finally finding a seemingly sustainable lineup. After finding difficulty scoring with a lineup of Canaan-Booker-Ariza-Anderson-Ayton, Kokoškov went with Canaan-Booker-Bridges-Warren-Ayton against the San Antonio Spurs. The Suns won that game by 20. They’ve gotten off to quick starts against the Thunder and the Sixers as well, leading by double digits in the first quarter in both of those games.
Bridges got crunch-time minutes against the Grizzlies, a game the Suns ended up winning via Devin Booker game-winner. The setup, though, to that game winner, came from a very clutch shot from Mikal Bridges. Without that shot, the Suns don’t have the opportunity to win the game.
As of November 17th, Bridges swings the net rating per 100 possessions from -21.7 to +10.5. He’s in the bottom half of defensive rating for the Suns, tied with Josh Jackson and behind only Richaun Holmes for players that actually see significant playing time. The numbers speak for themselves.
He’s one of the most competent defensive players on a team full of youth, and makes energy plays when he sees the floor. Remember this Summer League play?
The irony of the whole situation comes from the fact that Philadelphia has one of the worst shooting cores in the NBA. By trading Covington and Šarić, the Sixers gave away two of their top five players in 3-pointers made per game. They could very much use Bridges, especially because Zhaire Smith will miss the remained of the 2018 calendar year.
Mikal Bridges is good. He’s full of potential. He’s coming to steal your basketball. He’s ready to make a big impression, and potentially an all-rookie second team.
The Suns would like to thank Philadelphia.