For the next month, before the NBA Draft different prospects will be looked at in depth here at Liberty Ballers. Breaking down each of these prospects in four core areas of Offense, Defense, Positional Fit, and Draft Projection will help to see which player would look the best being chosen with the 10th pick by the Sixers. First up in this month long series is the player that most people feel is the best option for the Sixers, Villanova small forward Mikal Bridges.
The local guy that many want, Bridges has a proven track record of winning, as he helped Villanova become national champions in both 2016 and 2018. Early on in the draft process, Bridges looks like a lock to go in the top 10, but the hope of many is that he slips until the Sixers pick at 10th overall. He has the talent to go much earlier, but it is all about how the dominos fall in front of Philadelphia as to whether he gets chosen early.
Mikal Bridges was the star of the Villanova Wildcats this season. Although he was overshadowed by teammate Jalen Brunson at points, Bridges was the guy most ready for the NBA game style. In his junior year Bridges learned how to take over a game on offense, scoring a career high 17.7 points per game but without necessarily having to command the ball. Averaging 5.9 two point shots and 6.0 three point shots her game, Bridges doesn’t need a ton of touches to get on the scoreboard. But when he does get a lot of touches, watch out. This game against Marquette highlights exactly why Bridges will succeed at the next level, he can carry an offense both inside and out, shooting and cutting in each possession.
While playing with one of the best point guards in college basketball, Bridges didn’t handle the ball a lot in his time at school, mostly worrying about cutting and finding open holes to get his shot off. Because of this his assist numbers suffered, as he only averaged 1.9 assists per game in his final season. I don’t think these numbers dictate who Bridges is a s a player, he seems very willing to share the ball, but it only really comes to him when he has the opportunity to score. Another area where Bridges improved in each year is his rebounding numbers. His 5.3 rebounds per game don’t jump off the page, but this year he seemed much more comfortable coming in the paint to fight for rebounds, and it showed as he improved that stat by almost a full rebound per game (4.6 to 5.3). Offensively, Bridges seems to be one of the most NBA ready prospects in this draft class.
Defense is the spot where Mikal Bridges really doesn’t stand out. He doesn’t hurt his team, but he isn’t considered to be a star in this part of his game right now. Bridges is more known for his offensive game, but what many are also looking at is the potential for growth on the defensive side of the ball as he grows more into his body with the help of an NBA coaching staff. Right now Bridges can use his lanky frame to effect shots on college shooters, but at the next level he will be looked at as the weak link because of the lack of strength. One of the problems that the Sixers had down the stretch this season is having reliable defenders come off of the bench, Bridges may not be able to win games defensively early on in his career, but he won’t lose games either. As is the case with many of these young players, they aren’t finished products just yet, so you have to look at what they could become down the road. If Bridges can put on some weight and keep his agility, he could become a lethal weapon on both sides of the court.
Mikal Bridges will become a top two way small forward at some point in his career, but if drafted by the Sixers he won’t get that opportunity right away. With both starting forward positions locked up by Robert Covington and Dario Saric, the only spot left for Bridges is off of the bench. This spot would work well for him and shouldn’t be seen as a slight to the first round lock. Bridges would be able to come in and play big minutes while not being bored to guard starting caliber wing players right from the start, he can make plays without having to be relied on to be the key piece on either offense or defense. Offensively, Bridges can focus on what he does best, scoring off ball and cutting to the lane to draw fouls. Working with the second unit as one of the first players off the bench as a small forward allows Bridges to grow into his body while still playing a vital role on the team. It’s no secret that the Sixers failed to really improve on the depth of the team late in the year as the bench faltered, but bringing in Mikal Bridges would go a long way to making sure next years team doesn’t run out of steam at the most important point in the season.
The hope of many is that Mikal Bridges is available to be chosen with the 10th pick, but there is a very good chance he doesn’t make it. Unless another team or two decides to reach on a prospect that wasn’t supposed to go in the top ten, then I doubt Bridges makes it to the Sixers. Right now I believe that Bridges gets drafted to the Chicago Bulls with the 7th overall pick, but with the Sixers lurking close to that spot, there is a possibility he could land in the city where he played his college ball.