This year’s NBA Draft is one of the most intriguing in recent memory. As it stands, DeAndre Ayton is expected to be the number one pick, but even that is not a sure thing. Beyond him, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the rest of the top ten and beyond.
The lack of a consensus on most of the players is sure to provide a great deal of excitement when the draft takes place on June 22. When you look at the prospects that are available, one of them stands out as a great fit for the NBA game – Mikal Bridges. And yet, for whatever reasons, the Villanova junior is not getting the attention he likely deserves.
Sure, there are some good looking prospects that are projected to go ahead of him, including the aforementioned Ayton, European phenom Luca Doncic, and Marvin Bagley III. But Bridges fits the mold of a player who can be very successful at the NBA level.
The first thing that stands out with him is the combination of size and athleticism that is quite rare even among NBA veterans. He stands at 6’7, with a 200 lbs frame, and his 7’2 wingspan will enable him to shoot over defenders, grab rebounds in the paint, and play strong defense. He has already displayed tremendous dunking abilities, combined with a great outside shot. If he lands with the right team, who chooses to use his versatility to his strengths, he could develop into the best player in this draft class.
Sometimes fans and analysts get caught up in hype over various players or prospects, which really shuts their minds to the possibility that they could be missing something. For instance, Donovan Mitchell wasn’t selected until the 13th pick in last year’s draft. And he has proven so many people wrong by becoming a front-runner for the RoY award. If teams could get a do-over, Mitchell would likely be the first or second player off the board. But many analysts as well as teams overlooked him, and are now likely regretting that decision.
Taking a look at Bridges’ junior season at Villanova, he really took a step forward in becoming the star many thought he could be. He improved his performance across the board, scoring 17.7 points per game, and adding 5.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists each time out as well. On the defensive end, he averaged 1.1 blocks and 1.5 steals per game.
As he continues to develop, Bridges could be a star in the NBA. He already possesses a full range of scoring moves and abilities, which could make him very difficult to guard. He finished last season with a 51.4 shooting percentage, while displaying long-distance range, shooting 43.5 percent from outside the arc.
While it doesn’t make sense to use a top-three pick on Bridges, simply due to his perceived value, a smart team who is looking to add a player with his skill-set, could trade down and gain added draft picks, while still grabbing their player with a later pick. Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge pulled a similar move, when he traded the team’s number one overall pick last year to Philadelphia, knowing he wanted to select Jayson Tatum all along. He simply knew that he could still get his man, while getting more value in return for the coveted first pick in the draft.