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 breakdown focuses on Villanova forward Mikal Bridges.
As is typically the case with players who stay in college multiple years, Villanova forward Mikal Bridges might be one of the most “boring” prospects in the draft. Already 21 (he’ll be 22 before his rookie season begins this fall), he is already close to the complete player he’ll be throughout his NBA career. Fortunately for Bridges and the team that drafts him in the lottery, that player is already pretty damn good.
Standing 6’7 with a 7’1 wingspan, Bridges is the prototypical NBA 3-and-D wing for whom teams are looking all over the league. He was an outstanding spot-up shooter in his junior season during Villanova’s run to a second title in his three years there: Synergy ranks him in the 98th percentile in spot-ups overall and 95th percentile in all catch-and-shooter jumpers.
He gets great elevation on his shot and releases the ball high above his head, two important characteristics of a shooter who will be heavily guarded from the moment he steps into the league—Bridges finished in the 95th percentile on guarded catch-and-shoot jumpers thanks in part to that high release point and verticality on his jump shot.
There’s not a ton else to Bridges offensive game in the halfcourt other than his shooting, but that’ll be enough to be a solid starter-level player throughout his career. He shoots well on the move, though Villanova didn’t utilize him a ton in off-screen situations where he’d have to turn and shoot off a dead sprint.
For as great as he was on catch-and-shoot jumpers, he finished in the 40th percentile in D-I on jumpers off the dribble. He’s not an advanced pick-and-roll operator and likely won’t even be a team’s secondary threat in those situations. Bridges has the vision and team-based mentality to make the extra pass on the perimeter and keeps the ball and himself moving in the flow of the offense, but it would take a significant improvement in his handle, passing, and vision to get to the level of a secondary pick-and-roll ball handler at the NBA level.
That sort of development isn’t impossible; Atlanta Hawks fans only have to look at Kent Bazemore this past season as an example of a former 3-and-D player adding a bit of secondary playmaking to his game, even later in his career. By all accounts, Bridges is the type of worker and team player that fits the Bazemore mold.
He’s a crafty finisher around the rim with his length allowing him to get the ball over and around defenders, but getting there can be an adventure. He doesn’t have a great handle at this point and is incredibly dependent on driving toward his strong right hand to get to the rim, to the point that defenders know he absolutely cannot go left and will play him right, even when traditional principles would tell them to play him left:
When he is able to get to his right hand, he drives confidently and can finish at the rim:
Defensively, Bridges was the point man in Villanova’s hybrid match-up zone, which developed his help instincts tremendously. Athletic and long on the perimeter, he’ll immediately be able to switch 1-3 and eventually should bulk up to be able to handle some 4s as well.
He’s not the biggest player out there and will probably begin his career defending 2s, but bigger 3s and anybody who can post up will give him issues. In a team scheme, Bridges is a strong help defender with great length and control on closeouts to the perimeter:
When he does get overactive defensively, his wingspan helps to make up for it:
There’s no doubt that Bridges has some minor holes in his game, but as far as NBA-ready prospects go at the top of this draft, there are few who have a better argument for filling a much-needed role than Bridges. While it’s exceedingly unlikely that a team with Atlanta’s current draft positions (3, 19, 30, and 34) will take him, teams further down in the 8-14 range will have him in for workouts to get a closer look.
There will be no concerns with his fit on any team in the league—teams can never have enough 3-and-D wings and Bridges ticks both categories coming out of college and should only improve on some of the little things upon which he can to completely fill out the comparisons to Robert Covington, Danny Green, and Otto Porter.