Jaren Jackson, Jr. Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • Ninth-ranked prospect in the 2017 high school class[1].
  • 18-year-old[2] without a lot of high level experience. Logged just 764 NCAA minutes. Other than that, has just 85 minutes with the United States National Team at the 2016 U17 FIBA World Cup and an appearance at the 2017 Nike Hoop Summit under his belt[3].
  • Averaged 20 points per 40 minutes[4] on 64.7% true shooting and compiled a 25.1 PER last season.
  • Michigan State had a +34.9 pace-adjusted point differential with him in the lineup[5], though it only played the 62nd-toughest schedule in the country[6].
  • Six-foot-11, 236-pound inside-outside big who got a fair amount of touches with his back to the basket in the post, without a lot of space to work with. Projects as a full time center in the pros but logged almost all of his minutes with another center on the floor in college. Shot the ball a lot better during the conference part of the schedule and made a few out of the pick-and-pop but still figures to be only a capable spot-up shooter in the near future.
    • Figures to be a good finisher out of the pick-and-roll but didn’t have many, if any, opportunities to do that at Michigan State.
  • Often matched up against the rangier of opposing big men but still managed to make a massive impact as a rim protector. Wasn’t stretched a whole lot in East Lansing but figures to offer a ton of versatility in terms of pick-and-roll coverage based on his coordination and agility out in space.
    • On the other hand, fouled a ton, which kept him from being a high-minutes player.

OFFENSE

  • Was sought after quite a bit in the block. Doesn’t get a lot of deep seals but creates good enough angles to get the ball around the mid-post area. Hasn’t yet developed a lot of polish but did very well one-on-one.
    • Logged 23.5% usage rate.
    • Didn’t show much in terms of head fakes, shot fakes, face-up jumpers or fade-away jumpers.
    • Was very productive with basic turnaround hooks and running hooks, proving to have soft touch with either hand.
    • Flashed a slick pivot-to-pass move but for the most part only spotted cutters and shooters when they were evident, aside from posting a displeasing turnover rate for someone who wasn’t a risk taker.
      • Assisted on just 9.2% of Michigan State’s scores when he was on the floor.
      • Averaged 3.2 turnovers per 40 minutes.
    • Can’t really be considered a power play but looked to back down weaker matchups a decent amount and didn’t shy away from contact.
      • Earned seven free throws per 40 minutes.
  • Shot the ball very well as a weak-side floor-spacer, even flashing some advanced footwork in a few instances, whether it was catching it on the hop on spot-ups or adjusting his feet quickly after moving to an open spot.
    • Has a compact release, launching the ball out in front but managing to get his shots off over closeouts comfortably enough due to his height and the good deal of elevation he gets.
    • Took 41.3% of his shots from long range. Nailed 39.6% of his 96 three-point shots, at a pace of five such attempts per 40 minutes.
    • Has the touch. Hit 79.7% of his 133 foul shots.
    • Took and made a few shots out of the pick-and-pop but for the most part didn’t look as capable when an opponent forced him to rush through his mechanics. Certainly not yet the sort of shot maker who opens up driving lanes at the point of attack.
  • Demanded closeouts, which opened up paths for him to put the ball on the floor. Very well coordinated attacking out of triple threat position. Likes to go left, has long strides and maintains his balance through contact to get all the way to the basket on straight line drives.
    • Is not a powerful leaper off one foot with an opponent attached to his hip but proved able to elevate off two feet off a jump-stop with power.
    • Only an up-and-down finisher, not someone who can hang or adjust his body in the air. But proved to be ambidextrous at the basket, used his length well to score around rim protectors on scoop finishes and showed pretty good touch on non-dunk finishes.
      • Shot 65.4% on his 108 attempts at the rim[7].
  • Wasn’t asked to isolate against his man out in the perimeter often but did flash some shiftiness in the game against Illinois, shaking his man side-to-side with multiple dribbles between the legs and getting by him on his way to the basket.
      • Didn’t show much of anything in terms of running floaters, step-back or stop-and-pop jumpers and passing on the move.
  • Didn’t have the space to roll hard to the basket.
    • Less than half of his makes at the rim were assisted.
    • Despite his seven-foot-five wingspan[8], was not particularly productive on the offensive glass.
      • Collected just 8.7% of Michigan State’s misses when he was on the floor.
      • But did finish his 19 putback attempts at a 77.8% clip.

DEFENSE

  • Excellent rim protector. Challenged everything he was close by. Showed a ton of versatility as a shot blocker:
    • Stepping up to the front of the basket, going up off two feet and making full use of his nine-foot-two standing reach;
    • Going up off one foot coming off the weak-side in help-defense;
    • Keeping pace with smaller players on straight line drives and blocking shots defending on the ball;
      • Averaged 5.5 blocks per 40 minutes.
      • Was the main reason why opponents shot 45.8% at the rim against Michigan State, which ranked second in the country[9].
  • All that activity near the basket came at the cost of him getting into constant foul trouble.
    • Averaged 5.9 personal fouls per 40 minutes, which limited him to just 21.8 minutes per game.
  • Was asked to extend out to the top of the key consistently, either hedging or showing-and-staying-out-an-extra-second to try preventing the ball handler from turning the corner right away or getting to the middle on side pick-and-rolls. Did well more often than not.
    • Very fluidly sliding laterally and able to keep up with smaller players stride-for-stride on straight line drives foul line down.
    • Can still improve in drop-back defense, in terms of not letting the roll man get behind him.
  • Was not asked to pick up smaller players on switches out on an island. Figures to have the agility for it but unclear.
  • So-so attention to his boxout responsibilities. Not all that physical either. Showed over-reliance on quickness chasing the ball off the rim, which didn’t go over great as the level of competition got tougher.
    • Collected 19.7% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor through the season overall but just 17.7% against Big Ten competition.
    • Had the best defensive rating among rotation players on a team that ranked 10th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency.

[1] According to ESPN

[2] DOB: 9/15/1999

[3] According to RealGM

[4] According to sports-reference

[5] According to RealGM

[6] According to Ken Pomeroy

[7] According to hoop-math

[8] According to the measurements at the NBA Combine

[9] According to hoop-math

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

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Miles Bridges Scouting Report

CONTEXT

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[1] 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[2].

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

[1] DOB: 3/21/1998

[2] According to our stats’ database

Cassius Winston Scouting Report

CONTEXT

While checking up on Jaren Jackson, Jr. and Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston caught my attention. Michigan State’s six-foot lead ball handler is not a potent scorer, magic passer or a difference maker on defense but plays very intelligent basketball on both ends.

The soon-to-be 20 year-old[1] sophomore is the trigger man of an offense that is mid-post oriented, focusing on the wings getting their catches sprinting around down screens or playing through the big men in the elbows.

As is, Winston’s role is more controlling the pace of the game, keeping things moving and spacing the floor than creating off the bounce but when he’s been needed to drive, Winston has proven himself a very good passer on the move.

He doesn’t have the physical traits to be an elite defender but executes the scheme down to a tee. Unable to create events in volume, Winston brings value to the table by being someone who will be in the right place at the right time.

QUARTERBACKING

He has impressed a lot with his feel for the game, in terms of understanding the right moments to pass ahead and speed up the pace or to walk the ball up the court and prioritize running some half-court offense, which he subsequently continues to aid by keeping the ball moving.

When asked to breakdown the defense out of the pick-and-roll, he’s shown a lot of craft maneuvering his way in the two-man game. Winston can’t just turn on the jets to turn the corner on explosiveness but manipulates his man expertly around the screen to put him in jail and uses head fakes to tie up the helper and create a window to hit the roll man with a bounce pass or a lob toss.

He is not one of those magicians who anticipate passing lanes a split-second before they come open and hasn’t yet shown an ability to make passes across his body to the opposite end of the floor.

But Winston consistently manages to keep his dribble alive if a shot opportunity doesn’t develop right away and has proven he is able to take advantage of defenders helping one pass away, make wraparound passes in traffic to a big close by deep in the lane or probe under the basket to stress the defense late into the shot clock.

He’s assisted on 46.1% of Michigan State’s scores when he’s been on the floor this season[2], a mark that currently leads the NCAA, on a 2.9-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

SCORING

Winston can create a decent look for himself in isolation. Though he can’t just blow by his man out on an island and hasn’t yet shown a particularly deep arsenal of dribble moves, Winston can get around or create separation with some side-to-side shake and stop-and-start hesitations.

He can make a step-back jumper from the elbow if the defender doesn’t manage to contest the shot effectively and has flashed a floater to finish over length from the in-between area, nailing 47.6% of his 21 two-point jumpers so far[3], but isn’t a particularly aggressive shot taker, as his low 20.3% usage rate attests.

When he’s had a path to the goal and took it, Winston has struggled as an interior scorer. A speed layup appears to be his only method of finishing, as he’s unable to attack the basket with any sort of explosiveness or complete up-and-under’s around rim protectors – converting just 50% of his 20 shots at the rim and earning just 15 free throws in 12 appearances this season.

Winston offsets the fact he can’t get easy baskets by shooting the crap out of the ball on catch-and-shoot bombs. He’s nailed 46.4% of his 112 three-point attempts over his 45 games in college, including a scorching 61% of his first 41 this season, at a pace of 6.2 such attempts per 40 minutes.

Michigan State has deployed him as more of a spot-up shooter, though, as we are yet to see him take many shots on the move, whether it’s sprinting around staggered screens or acting as the backscreener on Spain pick-and-rolls. Winston has a low release but gets quite a bit of elevation and some of the pull-ups he’s taken in transition suggest they could do a better job leveraging his quick trigger.

DEFENSE

Winston is not an elite individual stopper and doesn’t have the measurables or the athletic ability to create many events but has proven himself a very intelligent defender who can execute the scheme.

He is a proactive help defender who reads well when his teammate over-commits on a hedge or is about to get beat off the bounce, stepping up to pick up a roll man or clog up a driving lane.

On the ball, Winston works diligently to go over screens and hurry back to his man in a timely manner. Though he lacks the length to block shots or deflect passes from behind, Winston stays attached to his man all the way and is opportunistic looking for chances to poke the ball.

In individual defense, he gets down in a stance, has the lateral quickness to stay in front and some bulk in his 185-pound frame to contain dribble penetration by similarly sized players, though high end athletes have shown not to have that big an issue finishing around him.

[1] Date of birth: February, 28th, 1998

[2] According to sports-reference

[3] According to hoop-math

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

Jaren Jackson, Jr. Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Jaren Jackson, Jr. is very likely to end up a top 10 pick next draft.

The Michigan State big man already looked great on paper, possessing elite measurements and only turning 19 next September, but has still managed to compound the interest in him by doing great on the court as well.

He has impressed many over the first month of the season, proving himself to be a very effective rim protector while showing flashes of three-point range on the other end. In a time every team is looking for a big who can simultaneously space the floor and be a plus of some sort on defense, Jackson, Jr. should be highly regarded.

He projects as someone who should spend a lot of minutes at center on five-out lineups that stretch the opposing defense to its breaking point but that hasn’t yet been the case. Jackson, Jr. has played almost all of his minutes at Michigan State with another true big man in the lineup as well, with the only exception I’ve seen so far being a couple minutes against Southern Utah on Saturday.

The Spartans run a lot of stuff that is mid-post oriented, with the wings sprinting around down screens for catches on the side of the floor or the big men facilitating from the elbow, but there have also been plenty of opportunities for Jackson, Jr. to screen for pick-and-pops and space out to the three-point line as a weak-side spot-up shooter. He’s also gotten the ball with his back to the basket some.

Jackson, Jr. is supposed to be a finisher of possessions, whether it’s at the rim, from three-point range or on emergency post-ups late in the clock, but his 24.3% usage rate[1] is quite robust for someone whose role is not to put up a lot of shots and has provided a good chance to get a decent feel for the things he does well or needs to improve on at this point of his development.

Defensively, Michigan State consistently has him on the lighter of the opposing big men. He is currently listed at 242 pounds, some 17 pounds heavier than he weighed at the Nike Hoop Summit, but is yet to show a whole lot of reliability in terms of engaging in the most physical aspects of the game.

Jackson, Jr. has proven himself to be an exceptional asset in areas more related to movement and activity, though. His combination of nimbleness for someone his size and length were already very appealing on paper but he’s translated them into production in pick-and-roll defense extending far beyond the foul line and in help defense by playing with the sort of intensity you don’t necessarily see from guys with his physical attributes.

RIM PROTECTION

Jackson, Jr. has impressed the most so far with his shot blocking.

The six-foot-10 big has a nine-foot-one standing reach and has shown phenomenal leaping ability, whether it’s off one foot rotating from the weak-side in help-defense and sprinting back in transition or off two feet after keeping pace with dribble drivers as they turn the corner off the pick-and-roll.

Putting in the effort to consistently try challenging everything he is close by, Jackson, Jr. has averaged 5.4 blocks per 40 minutes so far this season. His 75.4 defensive rating ranks third in the country[2].

The downside of all that intensity is that Jackson, Jr. is often putting himself in risk of contact that is up for interpretation, aside from the fact that he is prone to biting on shot fakes, which have resulted in him averaging 5.9 personal fouls per 40 minutes – limiting his playing time to just 22.4 minutes per game so far.

Jackson, Jr. has made some preventive rotations that clog up driving lanes, plays that suggest there is some pretty good defensive awareness there to be developed. He is not yet the sort of rim protector who keeps opponents from getting to the basket in the first place all that often, though.

The other issue with his interior defense is the glass. He is rarely inattentive to his boxout responsibilities but hasn’t shown an inclination for getting physical in his attempts to erase the opponent off these plays.

Jackson, Jr. is a quick leaper who consistently chases the ball off the rim proactively, which explains the fact he’s picked up 24.1% of opponents’ misses against what ranks as the 70th toughest schedule in the country[3] so far, but it’s not uncommon to see him giving up second chance opportunities that figure to become a more tangible problem as they enter conference play.

PERIMETER DEFENSE

His mobility and coordination afford his coach a variety of options on how to use him against the pick-and-roll.

Jackson, Jr. has been asked to extend out to the top of the key consistently, either hedging or showing-and-staying-out-an-extra-second to try preventing the ball handler from turning the corner right away or getting to the middle on side pick-and-rolls.

He’s shown he can slide laterally very fluidly to execute that strategy out in space, aside from being able to stay attached to the guards who have tried driving around him just the same and follow wings who curl around pindown screens, at least well enough to use his length to challenge or scare away shots at the basket, showing himself attentive enough to guard with his arms raised in these instances.

Michigan State has asked that of him even against shooting threats setting the ball-screen, banking on his quickness to hustle back to the shooter in time to run him off the three-point line or at least contest the catch-and-shoot jumper effectively. He hasn’t forced many guys to put the ball on the floor but consistently puts in the effort to contest these shots as well as you can expect, given how tough the pick-and-pop is to defend.

Southern Utah burned Michigan State on a couple of those, which forced Tom Izzo to have his team switching on screens over the final eight minutes. Jackson, Jr. doesn’t really bend his knees a whole lot to get down in a stance but has good lateral quickness to keep pace with smaller players stride for stride.

Given his athleticism, he projects as someone who should be an asset to switch on these players and stay in front out on an island or track them on the move as they catch it on hand-offs and off a live dribble. There were some possessions in the game against North Carolina where Izzo felt comfortable with him starting on Theo Pinson, though the six-foot-six wing never really challenged Jackson, Jr. by isolating against him or forcing him to negotiate a screen in the pick-and-roll.

OFFENSE

39.4% of his shots have come from three-point range, as he’s averaged five such shots per 40 minutes. Michigan State puts him in the pick-and-pop a couple of times or so per game and there have also been plenty of instances for Jackson, Jr. to space out to the three-point line on possessions that get deep into the shot clock.

He is mostly an open-shot shooter at this point of his development, doing a lot better when he has the chance to set his feet and go through his mechanics without being rushed than when he’s forced to relocate after setting a pick or pull the trigger quickly against a closeout – nailing just eight of his 28 three-point attempts so far, with three of these makes coming in the game against Duke alone.

Opponents have closed out to him with some urgency, though, which has opened up the dribble drive off the shot fake a decent amount. Jackson, Jr. is well coordinated and can take it from the top of the key to the rim on a couple of dribbles but struggles to maintain his balance through contact and has the ball stripped away from him in traffic quite a bit – turning it over on 18.5% of his possessions.

He is also yet to show much of a stop-and-pop jumper or side-to-side shake and his handle is only rudimentary. When he puts the ball on the floor, Jackson, Jr. can only go on a straight line drive as now, which often ends up with him trying to finish in a crowd, though he’s shown some flashes of being able to make a kickout pass to the strong-side against a collapsing defense here and there.

His touch on non-dunk finishes is only OK and he can’t finish through contact yet – converting an unimpressive 58.4% of his 29 shots at the rim so far[4].

Jackson, Jr. figures to be someone who could play above the rim as a target for lobs diving to the basket off the pick-and-roll or spotting up in the dunker’s spot but that has rarely been asked of him at Michigan State, with only six of his 17 makes at the rim assisted.

He gets the ball some with his back to the basket on emergency post-ups late in the shot clock and when the opponent switches on down screens. Jackson, Jr. can get a lefty turnaround hook with decent touch out on these instances but is yet to show some semblance of a diverse post game, in terms of power moves or working his man with shot fakes, and his feel for recognizing double teams is only so-so.

He is asked to help facilitate offense from the elbows quite a bit, doing well on pre-arranged reads but not yet showing himself to be a particularly special passer – assisting on just 8.5% of Michigan State’s scores when he’s been on the floor so far.

His most impressive contribution on offense so far has been crashing the glass. Jackson, Jr. gets after it, has a seven-foot-four wingspan to rebound outside his area and a quick second jump to fight for tip-ins or 50-50 balls, also involving himself in enough scrums to get some second chances via the whistle – collecting 11% of Michigan State’s misses when he’s been on the floor and earning eight foul shots per 40 minutes this season.

[1] According to our stats’ database

[2] According to sports-reference

[3] According to Ken Pomeroy

[4] According to hoop-math

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

Miles Bridges Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Differently than what happened last season, when he spent most of his time on the floor as the second tallest player on four-out lineups, Miles Bridges has played as a wing on a full-time basis this year, in order to accommodate the many big men Tom Izzo judges worthy of playing time, with the only exception I’ve seen being the final eight minutes of the game against Southern Utah last Saturday.

Michigan State is running an offense that is mid-post oriented, with the wings getting their catches around down screens or to the elbow for hand-offs. The six-foot-seven combo forward is handling the ball 25 feet away from the basket less, hardly ever running middle high pick-and-roll, and taking more quick shots on the move than I remember being the case a year ago.

He’s gone from averaging 6.4 three-point shots per 40 minutes in 2016-2017 to 7.9 such shots in 2017-2018[1], while getting to the rim and to the foul line a bit less as well, though it’s worth pointing out that Bridges missed two games with an ankle sprain a month ago, so it’s possible the injury affected or is affecting his shot selection.

As a full-time perimeter defender, the 19-year-old[2] has been able to show that, while it’s unlikely he’ll be an elite stopper at the next level, he has enough lateral quickness to handle more than a few matchups against smaller players, aside from being able to execute the scheme as a weak-side defender.

Bridges has also impressed with his activity lately, following the example of teammate Jaren Jackson, Jr. by looking to challenge everything he is close by over the last few games. His defensive box plus-minus is 30% higher than it was last season.

DEFENSE

Michigan State has played almost all of its minutes with two true big men on the floor, so Bridges has consistently been assigned to defend true perimeter players.

He’s shown he can be quick enough to play such a role, proving himself able to slide laterally and stay in front of lighter players such as Grayson Allen, Gary Trent, Jr. and Theo Pinson in isolation, though it’s somewhat disappointing to see him not using the strength in his 230-pound frame to contain dribble penetration more often.

Bridges is too big to navigate over ball-screens and depends on his big teammate to recover back to his man in a timely manner. But he’s been able to do a better job chasing shooters around down screens when he’s focused and can closeout, run the shooter off the line and stay in front off the dribble when he is on his best effort.

His most impactful work has been executing the scheme, though. Bridges has been fairly reliable rotating off the weak-side to pick up the roll man and can leap off two feet explosively to contest shots at the basket or contribute on the defensive glass – averaging 2.2 blocks per 40 minutes and collecting 16.5% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor this season.

SHOOTING

Bridges is doing the bulk of his work catching the ball off screens. He’s taking a lot of quick shots on the move without being able to set his feet and his percentages show he is not yet a good enough shooter for the types of shots he’s taken this season – as he’s nailed just 31% of his 29 mid-range jumpers[3] and 34% of his 50 three-point shots.

His release seems somewhat quicker and more fluid but the lefty remains a fair more capable shooter on corner threes when he has plenty of time to set his feet than when he is forced to rush through his mechanics, though he has proven himself able to make some of these more difficult shots from time to time and it doesn’t seem out of the question he could develop into that level of shooter down the line.

His 89.5% foul shooting certainly brings more reason for optimism than last season´s 68.5% mark, though it’ s fair to point out it’s been achieved on just 19 attempts.

[1] According to sports-reference

[2] Who only turns 20 next March

[3] According to hoop-math

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

Miles Bridges Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

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[1] 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.

SHOT CREATION

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.

DEFENSE

Bridges led a team in minutes per game[2] that ranked 38th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency — according to Ken Pomeroy.

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[3] 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.

[1] Who only turns 20 next March

[2] He missed seven games with a high ankle sprain in December

[3] Eight-foot-seven standing reach, according to Draft Express

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

Miles Bridges Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

Of all the players ranked outside the top 10 in Draft Express’ top 100, Bridges seems to me the one with the most viable path to superstardom.

The six-foot-seven combo forward has shown the ability to crossover his man in isolation or get by him with a spin move and make a pocket pass or pass across his body to the opposite end of the court in the pick-and-roll.

His pull-up jumper isn’t all that reliable, he hasn’t learned the ability to draw fouls in volume yet, his 3.1 turnovers per 40 minutes are unpleasant and the fact he’s hit just 68.7% of his free throws make you skeptical of his 38.8% three-point percentage (despite the fact he’s averaged 6.5 such shots per 40 minutes).

But when you consider that aside from showing shot creation potential, Bridges is a sick athlete who can play above the rim as a target for lobs and shot blocker (averaging two blocks per 40 minutes), has impressed with his intelligence defending the pick-and-roll as a big man on a few instances and held his own on the glass (collecting 23% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor), it seems very clear that this guy is as good a prospect as anyone not named Fultz or Ball.

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