Twelve Reasons To Talk About Mikal Bridges

In this season’s first piece, I talked about O.G. Anunoby.  Great NBA Prospect.  However, if we’re talking about O.G. Anunoby, we should definitely be talking about Mikal Bridges.

Others might include but are in no way limited to:

P.J. Dozier. De’Anthony Melton. Dazon Ingram.  All three with ball handling ability that potentially puts them into a different conversation.  Anthony Lawrence Jr., as a pure a 3&D prospect as there is.  Gary Clark, perhaps.  Ex-Juco player, Jemerrio Jones.

As a 6’5″ or 6’6″ guy capable of scoring 20 points and getting 20 rebounds on a given night, Jones really should be getting some attention.  He also possesses some passing ability and some real potential and ability to affect the game on defense.

Mikal Bridges you say?  Moshi Moshi.  Let’s talk.  Why not?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_krT7Bl3PiY&w=560&h=315]

1) Did you know he has a near +60 net rating? 149 ORtg. 90.3 DRtg. Coincidentally an identical net rating to that of Anthony Davis in his Freshman season at Kentucky. 58.7!!!

mikal bridges net rating

I’ve included all-time net rating greats like Anthony Davis (obviously) and Karl-Anthony Towns for obvious reason.

I’ve also included Mikal Bridges’ teammate Josh Hart’s junior and senior numbers, as well as those from Jimmy Butler’s junior season.

The purpose is two-fold.  Firstly, to show that while Net Rating is heavily team dependent, Bridges scores better by this metric than arguably his best teammate and national player of the year candidate, Josh Hart.  That might suggest something to us about Mikal Bridges’ ability that is less than obvious merely by watching his low usage brilliance.

The second is that even as a Freshman, Mikal Bridges was really good on offense and Defense.  Just compare him to Jimmy Butler’s best college season.  Keep in mind, that I have also not chosen Jimmy Butler by accident, but because his career path is one realistic, if somewhat unlikely scenario, for a player like Mikal Bridges, especially keeping in mind that Bridges is a much, much better player at the same age and stage as Butler.

Though we must point out the improbability has nothing to do with Bridges in particular and everything to do with the unlikelihood of professional stardom, for all but the best of the best prospects.  Kind of like the improbability of Bridges keeping this lofty Net Rtg for the rest of the season.  Nevertheless, still impressive.

Offense + Defense Balance

2) Did you know he’s one of seven Freshmen in the Sports-Reference database to post a qualified season with an Offensive Box Plus Minus above 5 and a defensive Box Plus Minus above 5? The other four: Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Ben Simmons, Marcus Smart, Justise Winslow and Javon McCrea.

Mikal Bridges Freshman BPM

This is good company.  I will also note that of the players who have gotten meaningful minutes in the NBA, all of them have shown defensive chops.

An observation that has generally held true when extended to any freshman to post a plus 5 DBPM, given that they have the requisite athleticism to do so at the NBA level.  Just restricting our new wider list to the athletic college perimeter players who are more apt comparisons, we are now left with Marcus Smart, Justise Winslow, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson, Aaron Gordon, Otto Porter and Justin Anderson.  With Kyle Anderson, also making the list, despite not being very athletic.  And even with Kyle Anderson, all of these guys put up positive defensive numbers,

Conclusion:  It’s very likely Mikal Bridges is going to bring value on the defensive end.  Now we start to see a semblance of a worst case scenario in which Mikal Bridges is still very much an NBA player, one who might even provide positive value.

Offense + Defense Balance Continued

3) Did you know Mikal Bridges is on track to be one of seven sophomores to post a a qualified season with an Offensive Box Plus Minus above 5 and a defensive Box Plus Minus above 5? The others: Marcus Smart, Otto Porter, Kris Dunn, Jared Sullinger, Cody Zeller, Aaron Craft, with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a plus NBA defender at just 22, just missing the arbitrary cut off.

bridges sophomore bpm table

Conclusion: Once again, we can start to see that the worst case scenario for Bridges is not so bad.  We have a list that includes Bridges, five legit NBA guys, and Aaron Craft, who just lacks the athleticism to properly pursue an NBA career.

A second note: If we perform a similar defensive test we did with the Freshman, searching for Sophomore perimeter players who posted a 6 DBPM and were blessed with athleticism, we end up with this list:  Otto Porter, Rondae-Hollis Jefferson, Kyle Anderson, Andre Roberson.

Andre Roberson in particular gives a good view of the worst case scenario for Bridges.  What if Andre Roberson had passing ability, basketball IQ on the offensive end and in addition, was much more likely to shoot from distance?  What if you took a +2 perimeter defender and gave him the semblance of an offensive game?

A Brief Aside

O.G. Anunoby, P.J. Dozier, Tacko Fall and Caleb Swanigan are also on track to become part of this  +5/+5 group. We’ve discussed Anunoby.  Dozier is another very much underrated player, arguably even moreso than Bridges, given that we’ve seen ever mounting evidence of some real dribbling potential/ability.

That is to say, yes, the freshmen belong at the very top of the lottery, but come draft day, I’m not so sure that we shouldn’t see two or three sophomores come off the board right after them, in that 5-10 range of the draft.

Another interesting sophomore, not yet mentioned is, Jacob Evans who belongs in the continuum of prospects like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.  Better scorer.  Not quite as fluid athletically.  Less evidence right now of an ancillary game.

And then of course, Jawun Evans, Khyri Thomas, Edmond Sumner, Dedric Lawson, Cameron Oliver, DJ Hogg, Admon Gilder, the list goes on.  It’s a very good class of college players and pro prospects.

Frame + Athleticism

4) The athletic ability is hinted to at least in part by Bridges’ success, especially his defensive success at 6’6″ or 6’7″.  As for his frame, Mikal Bridges last measured at 6’6” with 7’ 0.5” wingspan.

mikal bridges

That measurement came in 2013 when Bridges was only 16 or 17 years old. So it’s highly possible, even likely that Bridges has gained an inch or two or height and length.  In terms of body type, that would make him a longer, leaner Andre Iguodola or Andre Roberson. And yes, he presents that type of defensive upside.

It’s possible Bridges will be too small to guard guys like Lebron or Giannis at the next level. Whether that is the case will depend in part on how Bridges is able to use leverage. But it’s equally possible that he’ll be a multi-position nuisance, able to match up against, and actually bother, even the smaller Point Guards, who initiate offenses for most teams in the league.

A Deeper Dive Into Defensive Statistics

5) While tape is perhaps the best way to gauge defense, Mikal Bridges statistical profile provides everything we might wish to see from a potentially elite defender at the next level.

mikal bridges
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Steals and Blocks? Check. Career 3.2% Steal Rate. Career 3.1% Block Rate.  While not near historic numbers, these are upper echelon rates, especially in combination.

Checking the sports-reference database and noting it only goes back so far:  Of the 60 or so players to post these rates through the first two years of their career (having played at least 650 minutes), we find eight six NBA players.  Nerlens Noel, Otto Porter, Justise Winslow, Andre Roberson, Robert Covington, Kyle Anderson, Mitch McGary and R.J. Hunter. Though we also find Cincinnati’s Justin Jackson, who is probably one of the five best defensive players I’ve seen on a college court.

Again.  The defensive evidence continues to mount.

  • It should be noted, O.G. Anunoby, Anthony Lawrence Jr., Ethan Happ and Raymond Spalding, Matisse Thybulle, Nicholas Baer and Josh Reeves are right around these thresholds as well.  Though at 1,000 minutes, it’s pretty much just Ethan Happ, whose treated with way too much indifference for a player as all-around excellent as he is, and Mikal Bridges.

Does Mikal Bridges Rebound the Basketball?

Check. 13% Defensive Rebound Rate for his career. Great for a shooting guard, especially in the context of the Villanova teams he’s played for which had multiple dominant college players on them. Like a better version of Kawhi Leonard’s SDSU teams, one or two surefire NBA guys and any number of borderline, probably not-quite-there NBA guys beside them.

Josh Hart is perhaps the best of them, and like Bridges, also a great rebounding guard.  Others include and have included Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, Kris Jenkins (whose shooting will probably transfer to the NBA and whose defense and ability to fit within an offensive context is probably being underrated), and Jalen Brunson.

Another Defensive Test

6) Did the player contribute to great defenses?

Why this question?  Firstly, because the eye test sometimes lies to us.

Generally we understand very well what happens at the point of attack, and slightly less well all the small compounding things that go into making a player very good or not so good at defense.  The team defensive thinks.  Does the player get back in transition?  Does the player help his teammate on time, or is he consistently late in rotations?  Even more than that, does the player anticipate when his teammate might need help while at the same time still being able to cover his man?

These types of questions go on and on, since a player’s defensive responsibilities are not only manifold but indeed may change on a play-to-play basis depending not only on how the play unfolds, but sometimes on how the previous offensive possession unfolds.  Unfortunate cross matches are one example of this.  Transition defense, which most often results from live ball turnovers another.  But these are by no means the only examples of how a player’s individual defensive responsibilities may be affected by his own team’s offense.

Secondly, because our defensive statistics for college players aren’t very good, we sometimes need several statistical proxies to help us.  Defensive Box Plus-Minus is one of these.  To slightly simplify what it does:  This formula combines team defensive performance with individual defensive stats like rebounding, blocks and steals to output a +/- value to how each player affects a defenses positive or negative outcomes.

Another proxy I suggested last year was to compare a player’s Individual DRtg to that of their team.  That’s a good one.  Perhaps near the best, given that we don’t have WOWY numbers for college players.

But now I’m going to simplify it a little.  Why don’t we just ask if the player played for defenses that excelled as a unit?

Here’s Why It Might Be a Good Question

Why don’t we ask if the player played for a great college defense?

Really, at its base, this question just acknowledges the obvious connection between individual and collective defense.  More than that, it bares out if we look at the data available to us.  However, for some reason we very rarely see team defensive data referenced when analyzing individual prospects.  So here goes:

Looking at the sports-reference database, it’s almost impossible to find a great NBA defensive player who played for a team that performed at a significantly below average level. On average defensive teams, sometimes.  It was true for both Jimmy Butler and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, both playing on teams that marked their seasons with 101 DRtgs.  But on a lousy team, almost never.

Of course, we do find some very good defenders.  Klay Thompson played on a team with a 104 DRtg as a sophomore.  Langston Galloway played on several piss-poor defensive teams.  And both are fine NBA defenders, with real strengths and yet not without flaws.

However, for great or near great defensive players, Elfrid Payton, may be the one exception.

It’s difficult to know what to exactly make of Elfrid Payton as a defender, since his team’s tend to be mediocre on defense but his own individual defense by the eye test (usually) and by WOWY ratings tends to be very good to excellent.  He played for a Ragin’ Cajun defense that rated just 103.5 per 100.  Other than that . . .

This Test Applied to Mikal Bridges

6 (cont.) Did the player contribute to great defenses?

Check. The 2015-2016 version of the team, finished with a 94.1 DRtg, good for 15th in all of college basketball. The 2016-2017 version is currently at 91.6, good for 38th. And Mikal Bridges individual DRtgs (92.8 and 90.3 respectively) are better than those of the team, indicating that he is likely one of the prime movers of the defense.

Then you add a 6.3 DBPM as a Freshman and a 15.3 DBPM as a sophomore and there’s a lot to like. Defense is a potential A/A+ NBA skill for Bridges, if he continues to focus on that side of the ball.  Few players in any draft have any skill that grades as a potential A/A+.

(This draft may be an exception to that rule, but in most drafts it’s the case.  It’s this very fact that made Ben Simmons so unique in last year’s draft, especially given that he had multiple skills that might grade potentially as an A or A+.)

But back to the point at hand, even if Bridges doesn’t reach those heights, he’s likely to provide significant and measurable value on the defensive end over the course of his NBA career.

Intermission

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0UHjiT_7Qc&w=560&h=315]

An Argument That Could Be Made With Respect To Mikal Bridges

7) Before we get into the offensive metrics and statistics, I’d just like to point this fact out.  Considering only the Box-Plus Minus era of Sports-Reference (2010-11 and on), and considering only players who started their college basketball careers as Freshmen, it would be easy to argue that Mikal Bridges has had the best start to his career (first 1,150 minutes) of ANY player not named Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns.

That is to say, considering both sides of the ball, he’s been the most impactful non Davis or non Towns player as a Freshman and Sophomore.  That includes Ben Simmons and Marcus Smart and D’Angelo Russell and Jared Sullinger, who all had features to their games that removed value from the table.  The reason being, so far, Mikal Bridges, basically takes nothing off the table.  Not by poor defense.   Not by attention lapses.  Not by lack of effort.  Not by making poor decisions, especially with respect to shot selection.  Not by wasting possessions with turnovers.

He’s used only 14.6% of his team’s possessions in his career, yes, but his True Shooting Percentage is over 66% for his career.  This usage is also almost entirely based on shooting the basketball, since he only turns the ball over 1.2 times per 40 minutes.  Which is to say, if Mikal Bridges merely turned the ball over at the rate of Ben Simmons or Marcus Smart or D’Angelo Russell, he’d have a Usage Rate at or perhaps well above 20% that we’d all respect.

However, having a higher turnover rate wouldn’t make Bridges a better or more impactful player.  That’s not to say he’s a better NBA prospect than any of these players.  After all, there is a difference between being a great college player and a great NBA prospect.  But when a player with the frame and athleticism of Mikal Bridges also puts up such results, we should take notice.

That fact remains true whether you buy this argument or not.  The mere fact that the argument could be presented says a lot about how good Bridges is right now and might be into the future.

Mikal Bridges on Offense

8) Let’s talk about efficiency and offensive balance.

66% True Shooting for his career. 63% Effective field goal percentage. 74% from Two for his career. 40% from three so far this year, on nearly 3 attempts a game. An 80% career free throw shooter. And nearly 85% this year, at least so far.

To see Mikal Bridges numbers in context, let’s look at Villanova’s 2016-2017 Team scoring data, per hoop-math.

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-1-14-41-pm

Here we see excellent percentages from all ranges.  What we also see is that most of Bridges shots at the rim (72.4%) and all of his mid-range makes (which could be anywhere from 3 to 19 feet) come unassisted.  That’s pretty unusual for a fourth option on team like Villanova, which has multiple players who can move the ball, including Bridges.

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-1-15-16-pm

Here we see the same data set.  Now keep in mind, we’re dealing with small samples sizes.  Bridges has the fourth most shots on the team, and, at 79,  has just over half as many attempts as the number one guy on the team, Josh Hart’s 150.  Kind of like a more extreme version of the situation Jimmy Butler found himself in as a Junior at Marquette.

That year Jimmy Butler was third on the team with 279 attempts, but much closer to Darius Johnson-Odom (334 attempts) and Maruice Acker (230 attempts) than to number one head honcho Lazar Haywood (514 attempts).  And even then we’re ignoring Dwight Buycks (184 attempts) and David Cubillan (174).

Let’s Compare Team Context for Mikal Bridges and Jimmy Butler

So now I’m going to draw two similarities between Bridges and Butler’s college situations.  One, though the overall usage rates vary slightly, the percentage of each player’s field goal attempts relative to the team’s head honcho is uncanny.  53.3% for Bridges.  54.2% for Butler.  That might not be significant, but at the very least, it’s interesting.

Second, is the amount of NBA talent and borderline NBA talent surrounding each player.  We’ve already discussed this for Bridges.  Hart has the look of a likely NBA player of some kind.  Jenkins and Brunson look more like borderline guys, though I would not be surprised if either had a career.  Especially Jenkins, since I believe him to be an underrated defender.  (Compare his game vs. Perry Ellis to what happened vs. Robert Carter Jr.  Jenkins knows how to use his body to impact his opponents effectiveness, and without fouling.  Carter Jr., at least as of then, didn’t, which is why he seemed soft at times.)

As for Jimmy Butler, though no one will remember this Marquette team, we have Butler, NBA star, plus borderline guys Lazar Haywood, who was drafted, Dwight Buycks, who’s had multiple cups of coffee, and Darius Johnson-Odom, who for about a week in the 2012-2013 season was the worst player on the Lakers.  More than that, he later reprised the role for the Sixers the following season.  (And while, it might sound back handed, this is really not an insult.  I’m totally in awe of Darius Johnson-Odom’s athletic ability, and only in my wildest dreams could I have been the worst player on any NBA team.  And probably not even then.)

That is to say, there’s a reason these players are sharing shots, and that they are willing to take a secondary role behind other players who are quite good at basketball might actually be a good thing, rather than the negative it’s perceived as.  (Check out Shane Battier or Eric Bledsoe or Devin Booker or any successful NBA player who didn’t show much on offense in college because they played on loaded teams.)

But Back To Mikal Bridges

8 (cont.)  Numbers, Numbers, Numbers.

The most we can ask of a player like Mikal Bridges is that he takes advantage of his opportunities.  And also, hopefully that he generates some of his own offense.

With Bridges, we see both things.

To see that he takes advantage of his opportunities, we need only look at his percentages from all ranges and the free-throw line.  In particular, I’d like point out those rim percentages.  29 of 32 is ridiculous.  And Bridges is 6’6″ or 6’7″.

To see that Mikal Bridges has some ability to generate his own offense, we should once again look at Bridges numbers at the rim.  21 or his 29 makes at the rim are unassisted.  And only one of those is the result of a direct putback.  That’s near 70%.  A very high percentage, especially for an off-ball player.

mikal bridges

What’s even more impressive is that one out of every four field goal attempts results in an unassisted make at the rim.  Now of course that’s not something we would expect to continue if the Usage Rate went up, but it’s also an exceptional percentage.  One out of every six attempts resulting in such a make is generally exceptional.   One out of seven is very good.

And Bridges would need to shoot 41 more shots, without an unassisted make at the rim, to be at one in six.  He’d have to shoot 61 to be at one in seven.

Neither is likely to happen.

But What About the Usage?

9) The Low Usage Problem.

There’s no way to get around it.  Only 14.5% as a Freshman. Only 14.7% this year.

That’s low.  Very low.  However, let’s try to look at it from another angle.  Let’s play a game.  And in this game, let’s imagine that Mikal Bridges shot a lot more from the field, but with incredibly diminishing returns.

More specifically, let’s imagine Mikal Bridges took 2.5 more shots per game than he’s taking right now, and that he missed them.  Just add 2.5 misses to his total for each game.  About 40 so far.  Or about 100 or 120 for a whole season.  Basically a shit load of misses.  Just add them to Mikal Bridges’ total statistics.

Why 2.5 extra shots per game?

Because with 2.5 extra shots a game, Mikal Bridges would have a roughly 20% Usage Rate.

Not only would this number seem acceptable to nearly everyone, it’s basically the same number as one of the other potential 3&D studs of this class, O.G. Anunoby. Whereas 15% seems almost obscenely low.

Not obscenely low for a player like Draymond Green or Andre Iguodola or Shane Battier whose willingness to be low Usage players and to pass up opportunities for those who could better take advantage of them is part of the reason they were vital cogs of offensive juggernauts.  But obscenely low for a college player.

So what happens when Mikal Bridges misses 2.5 extra shots a game?

His field goal percentage drops from 62% to 49.5%, essentially the same as Markelle Fultz.

His True Shooting Percentage drops from an obscene 72.7% to 59.5% or thereabouts. A number better than any number of high marquee draft prospects, Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, Dennis Smith, Miles Bridges among them.

Don’t Stop Now, We’re Just Getting Started

Now, you might be saying now, Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, Dennis Smith, you can’t compare them to Mikal Bridges.  They are different sorts of players.  The freshmen are all primary initiators, ball handlers, perimeter dynamos.  Whereas Mikal Bridges is an off-ball 3&D guy. This is not an Apples-to-Apples comparison.

That’s a fair point.  So instead of comparing our imaginary Mikal Bridges to these Freshmen.  Let’s compare him to the numbers Jimmy Butler put up in his junior and senior seasons, in which Butler shot approximately 51% from the field and put up about a 61% True shooting.Basically identical numbers. And this is an imaginary version of Mikal Bridges, very much worse than the real one we’ve seen so far.

Then, let’s also remind everyone that Jimmy Butler only shot 107 total shots as a sophomore.  Through two years of their career, it’s not really a question whose the better pro prospect.  Which is not to say that Butler is going to do what Jimmy Butler has done.  Though I also wouldn’t completely discount the possibility that Bridges has more game in his tank than we’ve been allowed to see.

Mikal Bridges and Ball Movement

10) Bridges’ Passing Skill.

Mikal Bridges averages 5.6 Assists per 100 possessions, even though he’s the fourth option on a team.  It’s hard to do a quick search that can show you how unusual that is, but please believe me when I say it’s unusual.  Especially for a player who is not a Point Guard.  For a player who doesn’t always have the ball in his hands.

A Further Test, as Passing is Concerned

I’ve gone over in the past how Assist Percentage to Usage Rate is a Useful Indicator.  Approaching a 1:1 ratio is good.  Better than a 1:1 ratio is exceptional.  Especially for off-ball players.  (Point Guards generally have near a 1:1 ratio, and any Point Guard with less should be seen as at least somewhat suspect as a passer.)

So what about Bridges ratio?  16.4% to 14.7%. Better than one-to-one.  Which is what we saw with players like Draymond Green, Andre Iguodola, Chandler Parsons who became good to excellent passers for their position.  Others like Paul George, Gordon Hayward, Jimmy Butler and Khris Middleton had rates approaching or near 1:1 in their best seasons.

It’s by no means a guarantee, but we will conduct a couple of further tests to show how special Bridges has been thus far.

Further Tests, What Else?

11) If Bridges continues on his current pace, he’ll be the answer to this question:

How many players in the Sports-reference database shot 50% overall, 40% from three, and have an Assist rate over 15% while having a usage rate lower than 15%? Just one, Bridges.

Or this one, how many players in the Sports-reference database shot 60% overall from the field and have an Assist rate over 15% while having a usage rate lower than 15%? Just one, Bridges.

Yes, shooting 60% overall from the field for one’s career is high, especially when the player is a perimeter player.

More Fun With Numbers

How many players in the Sports-Reference database have a qualifying season with an OBPM above 5, a DBPM above 5 and Assist Percentage to Usage Ratio better than 1:1.  Just these:

brdiges ast usg

Or that is to say, a bunch of college point guards, Draymond Green, who often ran offense in college, Mikal Bridges and Mike Hart.  Yes, that Mike Hart.  The one whose low extraordinarily low Usage Rate caused all those who sold their soul for WP48 to go Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

That’s not coincidentally why I’ve chosen to include Otto Porter and Victor Oladipo.  To show that Bridges’ Assist Percentage would still be quite good, even were he to have a Usage Rate more in line with a player of such talents, whereas Mike Hart, not so much.

Is it merely a coincidence how small this group is, or that the only non Point Guard (other than Mike Hart) to fit this criteria is an NBA player of some note?  Perhaps.  Or perhaps Height, Athleticism, Defensive Ability, and fluency in passing is just a very rare combination.

Usage Rate Revisisted, With Respect to Possible Career Outcomes.

12) Low Usage College Sophomores With Notable NBA Careers

This is by no means an exhaustive list.  However, I wanted to place Mikal Bridges season against some others, just to suggest, that while 3&D specialist may be the most likely outcome for Bridges, other much brighter career paths are possible.  Those players: Jimmy Butler. Draymond Green. Kyle Lowry. Rajon Rondo. Chris Paul. Vince Carter. Andre Iguodola. Shane Battier. Kyle Korver. Danny Green.  Victor Oladipo, not included below, is another who falls into the same category.

(All numbers are pace adjusted, except for Carter and Battier, whose pace adjusted numbers aren’t available.)

Bridges compared per 40 to butler paul korver green battier

A) I included Kyle Korver to suggest that a player’s ability to get good shots as he progresses from college to the NBA is not static.  It depends very much on athleticism and dribbling ability.  Just look at how Jimmy Butler has continued to progress.

While we don’t know exactly what this means for Mikal Bridges, we should at the least acknowledge his athleticism might provide his game growth possibilities many others do not have.

B) Besides FTr, Jimmy Butler’s junior year and Mikal Bridges’ current seasons are so far, in many ways, similar.  Very high True Shooting percentage.  Good three point percentages.  (On incredibly low attempts for Butler.)  Solid to excellent passing numbers.  Near identical rebounding, defensive numbers and attempts per game.

C) This is pretty much a best of the best list.  Each of these players has managed at least one top 20 season, as judged by being Top 20 in multiple metrics in the same year.  Any number of them have managed Top 10 or even Top 5 seasons.

D)  Of course, all of these players are not like the others.  Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry and Rajon Rondo, being point guards, are very different types of players from the rest.  Yet I think they prove the point at hand.  Would anyone have predicted coming out of college that Kyle Lowry would one day arguably be as good, or nearly as good, as Chris Paul?

NBA careers are often unpredictable.  How players grow is unpredictable.  Or else the NBA draft would be an easy game.

E) As for non point guards, we have several different possible paths suggested here.  We have the Battier-Green-Korver path.  Three point shooting.  Ball movement.  And defense.

We have the Jimmy Butler-Vince Carter path.  Primary scoring, defense and enough passing to be really valuable.

We have the Draymond Green-Andre Iguodola path.  Elite defense, elite passing, efficient enough scoring.  And Bridges has some pointers suggesting each path might be possible.  The insane True Shooting Percentages and scoring balance.  The obvious athleticism and defensive ability.  The crazy good Assist-to-Turnover ratio.

F)  Regardless of which path you think most likely, Bridges stacks up very nicely to these pantheon players.

mikal bridges ranked per 40

G) He’s the only player to rank first in three categories and top three in five categories.  He’s also the only player to rank 6th or better in eight of the 12 categories.

Even were we to acknowledge that True Shooting Percentage and Two-Point percentage are very highly correlated, Bridges ranks relative to this peer-group would still be impressive.  Of course, we’re not even yet half way through the season.  There’s still a long way to go.  It’s unlikely his historic combination of success across pretty much all statistical categories will continue.

Yet, we’ve seen enough of Bridges through his first two seasons to believe he will remain among the upper echelon of young college players.  Given his frame and athleticism, why then are we not talking about him alongside O.G. Anunoby?

  • Stats thanks to Sports-Reference.com, hoop-math.com, and DraftExpress.com.

 

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