2018 Pick Number 9 – Mikal Bridges
Height – 6’7″
Weight – 200lbs
Age – 21.8yrs
Wingspan – 7’2″
Position – 3 and D Wing
Strengths – Defense, Maturity, ready to play, good shooter.
Weaknesses – Average creator, older than most top 10 prospects.
NBA comp – Otto Porter/Robert Covington/Trevor Ariza
Mikail Bridge can absolutely help any NBA team he goes to full stop. He is the quintessential hit for double type draft pick. The odds of Bridges becoming an NBA all star are likely lower than other players projected as lottery picks, but his bust potential assuming health is virtually nil.
Why he makes sense for the Knicks
Let’s face it, the New York Knicks are a franchise with a history of going for big names and throwing big money at marketable players. With a front court of Kristaps Porzingis and Enes Kanter the team is in need of players who can fit, unselfishly, into a star driven but offensive minded and somewhat disjointed roster.
Bridges is exactly the type of low maintenance connecting player who can cover up for deficiencies, build cohesion and serve as a great role player, spacer and defender for that franchise. A player of his maturity and relative polish is kind of exactly what the Knicks need and a tandem of Frank Ntilikina and Bridges could really begin to create a defensive identity that has not existed in Madison Square Garden since the Patrick Ewing era.
Mikail Bridges is unlikely to create a bunch of offense for himself or others in isolation situation in the NBA. He shot 43.5% from beyond the arc in his final season at Villanova and that will likely make him a viable threat from outside. Assuming his three ball translates, and there is nothing about his mechanics that would lead me to assume otherwise. He shot 83.5% from the free throw line which is fantastic for a player over 6’7″. This smooth stroke and reliable jumper will mean that Bridges will have plenty of opportunities to attack closeouts. This is where his game can become more than a Robert Covington type player. If Bridges can prove to be a threat to put the ball on the floor and drive the lane on closeouts, then all sorts of other possibilities are unlocked.
The fact that he is nearly 22yo on draft day does give pause to wonder how much upside still can be tapped into with him. It is generally reasonable to assume that 22yo players are far closer to their finished version than other 19, 20yo prospects. This has to be built into the evaluation when comparing him to other options that will be there for a team that considers drafting him.
One of the most intriguing aspects to Bridges game is his man defense against bigger players. He was asked to match up often with power forwards and centers at Villanova and more than held his own. There are many flat out perfectly timed man on man blocks against much larger players. This is intriguing because he is just the kind of player who can thrive and stand strong in a switch heavy positionless defense.
Returning to the theme of how polished and ready he looks, you can absolutely envision what role he can play for an NBA team. He may not carry a team on his back to wins or a championship but there is little doubt he could contribute in all the small ways to make teams win at an accelerated rate. My sense is that Bridges will be unheralded as a pro but be a part of plenty of deep playoffs runs and have a very long NBA career.