(First posted at RealGM)
Every team is looking for a Draymond Green these days; a big wing who can not only aid the shot creation process on dribble hand-offs, out of the short roll and handling in the secondary break but also draw opposing big men 25-feet away from the basket and force them to defend big-small pick-and-rolls out in space in a way they are not used to, while simultaneously providing excellent defense from a big position on the other end — whether it is via expert help or providing switch-ability.
That’s obviously a very difficult player to find. Green would be very valuable if he did just one or two of these things but the fact that he does them all is why he’s probably the most special non-volume scorer ever, given the way he unlocks Golden State’s most powerful lineup.
Miles Bridges hasn’t yet materialized into someone who can check all these boxes but there is no other prospect out there who looks like he is on his way to becoming something close to that sort of player down the line. And add to it that the 19-year-old combo forward chose the perfect place to develop a similar skill-set to Green’s in Michigan State.
Bridges had a very productive first year in East Lansing, posting a 22.2 PER and averaging 21.1 points per 40 minutes on 56.3% effective shooting — according to our stats’ database.
He impressed with the versatility of his dribble moves and his passing on the go in instances where he was afforded shot creation opportunities, while also carrying his weight reasonably well when he was needed to spot-up off the ball.
Defensively, the six-foot-seven 230-pounder was not asked to switch onto smaller players all that frequently and operated mostly as a big man whose top responsibilities was defending the interior, impressing not just with the use of his athletic prowess to create events near the basket but also flashing recognition skills in rotations that prevented drives to the rim from happening.
Often operating as the second tallest player on four-out lineups, Bridges was mostly guarded by big men and consistently drew them to the perimeter to force them to defend out in space.
Even against these slower types, he didn’t show much explosiveness with the ball to just blow by them on speed but showcased many resources to get around them most of the time. He has an in-and-out dribble and can hang dribble into crossovers to shake his defender side-to-side, aside from nimbleness pivoting into a well-coordinated spin move to just charge his way forward.
But despite playing on a team with five other rotation players who shot 35% or higher from three-point range, Bridges was unable to get all the way to the rim in high volume. According to hoop-math, just 37 of his 87 makes at the basket were unassisted and he averaged just 4.1 free throws per 40 minutes — not particularly impressive marks for someone with a 27.3% usage-rate.
Aside from the fact he doesn’t have above average quickness with the ball, his shot selection also looked a bit iffy. Bridges opted for a number of floaters and step-back pull-ups that seemed ill-advised but he converted 40% of his 85 mid-range shots — which is not awesome but is about as efficient as you can expect on such looks.
His decision making also needs improvement in the pick-and-roll. Bridges proved himself able to play with pace and make pocket passes and passes across his body to the opposite end of the court maneuvering his man into a ball-screen, assisting o 14.5% of Michigan State’s scores when he was on the floor.
But he’s also still prone to getting the ball stripped away from him in traffic and consistently looks for risky passes on the move when settling for simpler ones would be wiser — as he averaged 2.9 turnovers per 40 minutes and posted a disappointing 58-to-66 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Bridges ventured into the post in occasions where he was guarded by smaller or similarly-sized players and the results were OK, if not inspiring. He didn’t show much in terms of power moves or shot fakes but can shuffle his feet fluidly and get simple hooks and runners off, though nothing that made any opponent fear him to the extent that they started sending double teams on subsequent possessions.
FINISHING & SHOOTING
So, while thinking of Bridges’ potential as a shot creator is tantalizing, he is still doing the bulk of his scoring as a finisher and a shooter, as almost two-thirds of his field-goals were assisted.
Bridges has a low release but his catch-and-shoot jumper looks comfortable and fluid and the ball goes out with ease and at decent speed. He even flashed some versatility to his release, flashing the ability to make threes as the trailer in transition, after screening in the pick-and-pop, coming off pindown screens and relocating to open spots around the perimeter. The only thing missing was seeing him coming off staggered screens sprinting from one side of the floor to the other, which is too much to ask for someone with his frame.
Bridges nailed 38.9% of his 144 three-point attempts, at a pace of 6.4 such shots per 40 minutes. Yet, there are still concerns over whether that sort of high level shooting can translate to the next level because a known indicator of future performance from long-range is foul shooting and Bridges was a surprisingly poor free throw shooter last season, converting just 68.5% of his 92 such attempts.
Nonetheless, Bridges commanded closeouts, which afforded him many opportunities to attack the basket out of triple-threat position. He is an explosive leaper out of two feet, who also proved himself a target to play above the rim as a target for lobs on cuts, and has also flashed the ability to hang in the air, adjust his body and over-extend himself for non-dunk finishes around rim protectors — converting his 135 field-goals at the basket on a 64.4% clip.
His biggest contributions were near the basket, where he translated his athletic prowess into rotations coming off the weak-side to the protect the rim in help-defense and boxing out bigger players with physicality. According to basketball-reference, Bridges averaged 1.9 blocks per 40 minutes and collected 23.1% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor.
He also put his agility to use running shooters off the three-point line in pick-and-pop defense and on closeouts as a weak-side defender, subsequently using his lateral quickness to slide side-to-side and stay in front as these shooters put the ball on the floor.
But his most promising aspect might be his intelligence. Bridges 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 also proved himself attentive to his responsibilities switching assignments on the fly.
The biggest concern was when Bridges needed to guard true big men in the post. He can hold his ground in most instances but lacks elite length to contest shots effectively and didn’t often try making up for it by playing with active hands to try stripping the ball as the opponent made his move — averaging less than one steal per 40 minutes.
 Who only turns 20 next March
 He missed seven games with a high ankle sprain in December
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