Alright, so do I have your attention now?
This is Mikal Bridges. If you have not heard of him and consider yourself a basketball fan, I am sorry for you. Bridges is a stud on both sides of the ball and on almost every inch of the floor. On the eye test alone, he stands out. At 6-7 and 210 pounds, he is a specimen that is rarely seen in a Villanova uniform. He has athletic tools that Jay Wright has probably never had on any of his rosters.
All of this came from a kid that was not a top 100 national recruit. Overall, he only had six offers from high major schools and fourteen overall. His outlook as a recruit was primed to be a good perimeter defender with raw athletic ability.
Now in his third year on the Main Line, some experts are saying this of the prospect.
I just want to use this opportunity to say Mikal Bridges is the top 3 and D prospect in the 2018 draft
— PJ Guippone (@pjguip1) December 13, 2017
“Wait, PJ, did you spell Miles Bridges wrong? I mean he is a much better player.” No, hypothetical question from my own subconscious. Miles Bridges is not a better player in any metric other than size. “Wait, PJ, Nova doesn’t produce first round prospects.” You are right again, subconscious. Villanova has only had four first round picks since the turn of the century. “Wait, PJ, did you just plug your own tweet to illustrate a point?” You are really smart and perceptive, me.
In Nova’s biggest game of the year thus far against a top 15 Gonzaga team, he poured in a season-high 28 on 8-14 shooting and 5-9 beyond the arc. This was one of four games he has had this year when he scored more than 20 points. Everything was working for him in this game.
Here are a couple highlights to display his shooting touch. The first is off a screen. Bridges displays incredible ability in the catch and shoot game. His fundamentals are extremely sound and he easily sets his feet to show his catch and shoot ability. It helps that he plays with one of the best point guards in the nation and consistently is getting a good pass. It also helps that has a defender, defending him coming off a screen. If he has the space he will knock down the shot. Then, his pump fake is deadly, as is often the case with Jay Wright products. He can beat a defender off the dribble if he does not have the space when he catches the ball and punish them at the rim, much like the clip I opened the article with.
In the second highlight, Bridges displays his transition shooting ability. He patiently trails DiVincenzo, who is leading the break and eyes up the spot on the floor he wants to shoot from. He steps into his shot and knocks it down yet again.
His finishing ability at the rim is just as effective. In this clip, notice how while receiving the dribble handoff, his defender has to go over the top in order to limit Bridges’ ability to take the three pointer. After patiently recognizing the hedge from the center, he has the ability to take the ball in the lane on his own with smooth dribbling ability. Then, at the rim, he is able to finish through contact around the rim. His long arms give him the ability to finish easily around the rim, or to just flush it over defenders like in the clip at the top of the article.
Where he really shines is on the defensive end, though.
This season, he is averaging more 1.3 blocks and 2.1 steals per game. There is only a single game this year that he hasn’t recorded a steal and only three where he has not recorded both a block and a steal.
Here is a really good example of his defensive ability. He is the primary post defender against a center. His team mates leave him almost entirely alone on an island in the middle of the lane on said center, also. He stays square to the man and bodies up on the much larger player. He then uses his length to not just contest the fadeaway jump shot, but stuff it. Since he is a perimeter player, he is then able to start the fast break and get easy points for his team on the other end of the floor.
Mikal Bridges is playing some of the best two way basketball in the country. His name should be on a level with guys like Mo Bamba from Texas and Deandre Ayton from Arizona as guys in this draft that will immediately affect an NBA team on both ends of the floor. He leads a Villanova team that looks like the most skilled and solid team in the nation. If you haven’t been watching Mikal Bridges yet, then start.