In advance of the 2018 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down prospects, both from the college ranks and internationally, with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks will be evaluating in the coming days. More than 50 prospects will be profiled in this space and, in the end, the goal is to inform Hawks fans prior to June 21, when the Hawks are scheduled to make four selections with the first 34 picks.
Today’s installment focuses on Michigan State forward Miles Bridges.
Many people, myself included, wondered why on earth Miles Bridges chose to return for his sophomore season at Michigan State. After all, he posted a great freshman season of 17 points, 8 rebounds while shooting nearly 39 percent from three and was widely considered a lottery-level prospect.
Now a year later, it appears Bridges is ready to enter into the NBA after another good season consisting of 17 points per game along with 7 rebounds and an improved free throw shooting percentage up from 68 percent to 85 percent.
Bridges possesses a great frame at 6’7 while weighing 230. He doesn’t get pushed around on the block but can definitely push his opposition around when he wants to. He also rebounds his position well and will translate to the NBA pretty easily.
Lets take a deeper look into some of his strengths and weaknesses.
As mentioned before, Bridges has some great size for a 20-year-old at 6’7 with a nearly 6’10 wingspan. Despite having this large frame, he does not foul as much as a traditional power forward would and is athletic and agile enough to function at small forward, while also being solidly built.
Teams are going to love Bridges knack for three point shooting at the next level, where he is projected to be a 38 percent shooter from beyond the arc. His increase in free throw percentage proves that he has done some serious work on his three point jump shot and just on his jump shot in general to improve it.
Bridges also is blessed with solid court vision as proven by his nearly three assists per game. It is rare to find a forward prospect that does not get tunnel vision nowadays but Bridges is one of the few that looks to always get his teammates involved. It will be comforting for whatever team takes Bridges to know that he can play with the ball in his hands a lot of the time without worry.
Finally, we need to hit on Bridges prowess for rebounding. Without the best height at his position, Bridges has to be smart when he boxes out for a rebound. He shows great ability for positioning himself to succeed on both the offensive and defensive glass and will draw fouls down around the box by doing so.
Bridges does not have many weaknesses and that is what makes him an interesting prospect. However, the most likely one, at least in my view, comes with his defense and potential positional fit.
There are questions about his lateral quickness, burst and overall acumen at the small forward spot and, when playing up at the 4, he isn’t blessed with the kind of size that one would create in a lab. When he is matched up with top-tier wings, his relative lack of foot speed could be a problem and size could become an issue if he isn’t able to function fully at the 3. Bridges is able to make up for his lack of steals with blocked shots at the rim and, again, is smart with his defense by trying to use verticality when at all possible.
Miles Bridges is one of the most solid players in this entire draft and will make whichever team takes him immediately better. Personally, I’d say he might just be the best combo forward prospect in the entire draft next to Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr.
Overall, Bridges has very few weaknesses and even fewer adaptability problems. Most publications have him going around the ninth or tenth pick but I’d guess he goes even higher than that. Miles Bridges is as NBA-ready as they come and will make a quality starter for many years in this league soon.