(First posted at RealGM)
Mikal Bridges is a college basketball purist’s dream.
After redshirting his first year, the six-foot-seven wing improved year-over-year the next three seasons, graduated and now leaves Villanova as a two-time National Champion.
Most recently, he averaged 22 points per 40 minutes on 65.5% true shooting and posted a 25.2 PER in 40 appearances last season. Villanova played the sixth-toughest schedule in the country and had a +35.3 pace-adjusted point differential in Bridges’ 1,286 minutes.
Other than his 3,172 minutes of NCAA experience, Bridges also has 103 minutes at the 2017 adidas Nations under his belt.
The 21-year-old had a few chances to isolate against his man out of ball reversals and sealing his man for catches in the extended elbow area. But for the most part he operated as a weak-side floor-spacer, while also flashing some ability to aid the shot creation with movement.
On the other end, Bridges started most possessions matched up on similarly sized wings, as a weak-side defender, but Villanova switched aggressively, not just on screens but on movement as well, and he found himself picking up smaller and bigger players quite often.
Bridges is a solid on-ball defender.
He bends his knees to get down in a stance and has multiple lateral slides in him to stay in front in individual defense. He doesn’t use the strength in his 210-pound frame to contain dribble penetration regularly but uses his seven-foot wingspan quite often to try reaching around for strips, which is effective even when he doesn’t get steals, as his ball pressure can be unsettling.
Bridges also proved he is a good option against smaller players on switches, both out on an island and on the move, though it’s unclear if he’s suited to cross-match onto them for entire possessions. He can’t get skinny but does put in the work to go over picks at the point of attack. He hustles back to his man to try blocking, deflecting or challenging shots from behind but might not be as capable of tracking back speedsters.
When exchanged onto bigger players, Bridges has shown he can play stout post defense, get physical boxing out bigger players on most matchups and even elevate off two feet to challenge a shot stepping up to the front of the rim as the last line of defense – averaging 1.3 blocks per 40 minutes last season.
It’s unclear if he’s suited to match up with true behemoths and steal some time at center, though. He doesn’t appear to be bulky enough for it.
Aside from switching on the fly, Bridges also proved he’s constantly aware of his other responsibilities executing the scheme; rotating inside off the weak-side to pick up the roll man or just generally crowd the area near the basket and putting a body on an opposing big when his big teammate is engaged by a dribble penetrator.
Bridges also showed a knack for using his length to make plays in the passing lanes – averaging 1.9 steals per 40 minutes last season.
His closeouts are effective and he’s shown the ability to run the shooter off his shot, stay balanced and slide laterally to keep pace with him off the dribble.
Pitching in on the glass, he’s really only an average leaper chasing the ball off the rim and was somewhat disappointing considering his athleticism – collecting just 13.4% of opponents’ misses over his time at Villanova.
Bridges improved as a shooter every year and by the end of his college career, he was not only a good spot-up shooter but also proved he’s able to take good shots relocating around the wing, drifting to the corner, as the trailer in transition, out of roll-and-replace, out of the pick-and-pop, coming to the ball on dribble hand-offs and coming off pindown screens for elbow jumpers.
Brides has a fluid release and a fairly quick trigger, fully extends himself out of the catch and launches the ball from a high point, getting his shot off over just about every closeout comfortably.
He nailed 43.5% of his 239 three-point shots last season, at a pace of 7.4 such attempts per 40 minutes, and 40% of his 428 three-point shots over his three seasons at Villanova, at a pace of 5.4 such attempts per 40 minutes. He also hit 84.5% of his 265 foul shots over his college career.
When forced to put the ball on the floor, Bridges doesn’t have an explosive first step but has long strides to get all the way to the basket on straight line drives and can elevate off one foot explosively with some space to take flight.
Though he is yet to show much flexibility adjusting his body in the air for acrobatic finishes in traffic or a floater to score over length from the in-between area, Bridges was an efficient finisher at the basket, especially on scoop finishes with either hand – converting 67.9% of his 159 shots at the rim last season.
Bridges is not very shifty and hasn’t yet developed a wide arsenal of dribble moves to get by his man or create separation on craft in isolation. He has a loose handle, doesn’t have a quick first step to blow by on speed and is unable to bully his way to the rim.
But Bridges was reasonably effective at making shots in emergency situations late in the shot clock in college, as he is able to crossover into pull-ups and get a shot off over the top due to his high release – hitting 41.6% of his 77 two-point shots away from the basket last season.
Bridges isn’t an option to run offense in a pinch. He is adequate making a drop-off or a kick-out pass on the move against the defense collapsing to his drive but nothing advanced yet in terms of handling against a set defense and making passes across his body to the opposite end of the court – assisting on just 10.5% of Villanova’s scores when he was on the floor last season.
But Bridges can run a side pick-and-roll to keep the offense moving. He’s able to play with pace, hit the roll man over the top, can take a dribble in three-pointer or an elbow pull-up if left open and keeps his dribble when well defended.
Bridges’ way to create a shot as of now is taking a smaller matchup into the post. He mostly relies on power moves and tries to generate space for side finishes.
Bridges can also aid the shot creation process with his movement, as he’s able to play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense.
 DOB: 8/30/1996
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