Miles Bridges was projected to be a lottery pick in last year’s draft before withdrawing his name from consideration and returning for his sophomore season at Michigan State.
That’s usually a dangerous proposition for these prospects, who are risking getting exposed or not showing enough development for the liking of pro decision makers in their second years in college.
That didn’t turn out to be the case with the 20-year-old but he also didn’t manage to improve his status a whole lot either, as he’s currently expected to be drafted around the same range he was supposed to a year ago.
That’s not to say the six-foot-seven combo-forward was about the same player last season that he was in year one. In fact, it’s very curious how Bridges was pretty much a completely different player in year two.
As I wrote last August, Bridges impressed as a freshman by playing as a modern stretch big, capable of putting pressure on the rim as a finisher on dives to the basket or in the offensive glass and handling the ball out in space to create offense in isolation or out of the pick-and-roll, drawing opposing big men 25 feet away from the basket to defend in a way they are not accustomed to.
Defensively, Bridges translated his athletic ability into contesting shots near the basket coming off the weak-side in help-defense and running opposing stretch big men off their shots on closeouts.
More promisingly, though, Bridges also impressed with his technique in pick-and-roll defense as a big, getting down in a stance and walling off dribble penetration by rotating preemptively and manipulating ball-handlers into low-percentage mid-range pull-ups. He proved himself attentive to his responsibilities switching assignments on the fly as well.
But last season, he was asked to play, or he himself asked to play, a completely different role. In order to accommodate the four true big men Tom Izzo judged worthy of playing time, Bridges played as a pure wing the entire season, with the exception of a few stretches here and there when Michigan State was behind midway through the second half.
More of his shots were quick catch-and-shoot jumpers coming off screens on the side of the floor or sprinting to the ball on dribble hand-offs and he was tasked with guarding smaller players out on the perimeter for the most part.
As a result of his role, Bridges got to the rim less, collected a fewer percentage of available defensive rebounds and blocked fewer shots in his second year of college in comparison to his first.
I tended to dislike the way Bridges played last season but after going back to read what I wrote about him nine months ago, it turns out that all he did was focus on working on the few things I pointed out as causes for concern; individual perimeter defense, shooting versatility and foul shooting.
Therefore, taking a full view of his two-year college career instead of being myopic and only focusing on his most recent performance, I’m back to thinking very highly of Bridges, given the versatility of his skill-set and how much the league craves players like him right now.
In his 1,962 minutes in East Lansing, Bridges averaged 21.5 points per 40 minutes on 57.6% true shooting and 27.2% usage, nailed 37.5% of his 339 three-point shots, collected 20.4% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor, assisted on 15.8% of Michigan State’s scores when he was in the game, blocked 1.4 shots per 40 minutes and posted a 22.8 PER.
(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)
 DOB: 3/21/1998