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

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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

Miles Bridges Scouting Report

CONTEXT

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.

INTERIOR SCORING

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.

RIM PROTECTION

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