Miles Bridges has missed seven games while recovering from a high ankle sprain. But his performance over the first eight appearances of the season was very impressive, as he’s averaged 20.5 points on 54.6% effective shooting and 10.8 rebounds per 40 minutes.
After starting the season ranking him 26th, Draft Express currently has the 18-year-old (who will only turn 19 in March) 14th in their 2017 board.
The six-foot-seven combo forward is the exact sort of big wing the NBA is looking for in its stretch fours these days; not just someone who can space the floor all the way to the three-point line but someone who can also make plays off the dribble against a scrambling defense.
Bridges has also shown some potential as a rim protector, suggesting he could develop into the sort of mighty valuable chess piece who can hold up at center in smaller lineups and completely open up the floor for stretches on the other end, like a certain former Michigan State alumni has found success doing.
OFF DRIBBLE GAME
The lefty is not yet a particularly great shooter but his release off the catch seems workable and the ball is going in OK for now, as he’s nailed 15 of his 39 three-point shots so far this season.
As a credible threat from long range, Bridges demands a closeout, which creates opportunities for him to attack off the dribble. He moves very fluidly out of triple-threat position and while his 58.7% finishing at the rim (per hoop-math) is not very impressive, Bridges has flashed the ability to hang in the air, adjust his body and use his length for extended finishes around rim protectors.
But what sets him apart and offers some potential of him developing into a star in the future is his ability to initiate offense and create for others.
Bridges hasn’t yet developed a lot of dribble moves but has a crossover to shake his defender side-to-side and a spin move to get by him in isolation. He can elevate out of two feet to finish with explosiveness in traffic and has shot a decent 41.7% from mid-range when the opponent has kept him from getting to the basket, which is actually encouraging given his shot selection is quite suspect.
Bridges also has very good court vision, not just scanning the defense out of the low post but on the move as well. Michigan State has even put him in position to run some pick-and-rolls from the top against a set defense and Bridges has flashed the ability to make passes across his body to the opposite end of the court, assisting on 14% of the Spartans’ scores when he’s been on the floor – according to basketball-reference.
Having said that, his handle still needs work if he’s going to continue driving through traffic often and he needs to improve his risk assessment, as he’s averaged 4.2 turnovers per 40 minutes.
Other than attacking the basket off the bounce, Bridges is a pretty good finisher as he’s proven able to play above the rim as a target for lobs on cuts and a ferocious dunker on putbacks – converting seven of his 15 offensive rebounds into second chance points.
He still needs to develop a more threatening post game in order to prevent opponents from switching against him without consequence, though. His footwork is pretty fluid and he knows how to use an escape dribble to free himself of double-teams but the touch on his hook is so-so and he hasn’t yet shown an up-and-under move or a fade-away jumper.
Bridges has impressed with his technique defending pick-and-rolls as a big man. He gets in a stance, can wall off dribble penetration with nice position defense and then contest a mid-range jumper effectively. Bridges has also proven able to run the shooter off the three-point line in pick-and-pop defense.
But his most appealing feature is his athleticism at the basket. Bridges can elevate off two feet with some vertical explosion to protect the front of the rim and leap off one foot to block shots coming off the weak-side in help defense, as he’s averaged 1.8 blocks per 40 minutes.
Bridges wasn’t disciplined with his boxout responsibilities in the game against Kentucky but improved in subsequent outings against Saint John’s, Baylor and Duke and has collected 21.5% of opponents’ misses so far this season.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara