Miles Bridges is an athletic wing that should be available when the New York Knicks are picking at nine. Despite his deficiencies, he would be an intriguing fit in New York.
Miles Bridges can do a lot of different things well. The big question is whether or not he can excel at any one thing well enough to make up for some of his drawbacks. The New York Knicks are evaluating this very same question right now.
The 6-foot-7, 230-pound athletic specimen hails from Flint, Michigan and played his college ball for Tom Izzo and Michigan State. He was an expected one-and-done, but he elected to head back for his sophomore in order to grow and mature a bit more before entering the draft.
One of his old coaches feels that Bridges would be a great fit in New York. Michigan State associate head coach Dwayne Stephens told Adam Zagoria of SNY that, “I hope they have a big interest, I’d like to see him go there, personally.”
So his old coach is rooting for him to go there, but does Miles Bridges in a Knicks jersey make sense for the organization? Well, now this is the part where the team does their due diligence and they evaluate him to see how well he will fit in New York.
It’s always like shaking a magic eight ball this far in advance of the draft, but if you’re wondering whether or not Bridges will be available at nine—outlook good. There’s always the chance that he flies up the draft board, but as of now, Bridges looks like he will be going in the bottom half of the lottery. That should leave the Knicks in a position to draft the combo forward.
The first thing that jumps off the page at you about Bridges is his incredible athleticism. He’s only 6-foot-7, but he can jump through the roof—he specifically likes to explode off of two feet. His athleticism, rugged build, and leaping ability all translate to excellent rebounding numbers—especially when he’s being used as a wing player.
He’s got a nose for the ball on his own offensive plays. He can rebound his own misses well and he’s always good for his fair share of highlight tip-in dunks. But he really excels as a defensive rebounder. During his time at Michigan State, he averaged 14.0 rebounds per 100 possessions.
The Flint native attacks the rim well in transition. He can finish with either hand at the rim when slashing or cutting opportunities present themselves and his big frame allows him to finish through contact.
He excels when he can catch in space. He loves attacking defenders closing out on his shot and he can also knock down shots in spot-up situations or off of pick-and-pops.
Bridges was criticized by some for returning to school for a second season, but he definitely saw improvements in his game. He had a respectable offensive rating of 118.2 during his sophomore season. This was nearly a 10 point increase on his freshman year rating of 108.4. This type of year-to-year improvement is an excellent sign for Bridges going forward. Once he enters an NBA player development program, he could truly blossom into a great offensive player.
Especially late in the playoffs, teams are seeking mismatches left and right. Defensively, Bridges is capable of guarding multiple positions and he could thrive in a switch-heavy defense. He looks like he can fit into a lineup as a combo forward that can avoid getting victimized by a mismatch-driven offense.
The Michigan State product does a lot of things well. He’s athletic enough to survive at the next level as a combo forward with enough offensive upside to warrant the hype.
On one hand, Bridges’ athleticism jumps off the page at you, but he does have notable size limitations that could mitigate some of his incredible athleticism. His wingspan sits at 6-foot-9.5 so he doesn’t have the kind of length that necessarily projects to becoming a big-time rim protector at the next level. That’s not to say that he can’t develop into that type of player, but his size limitations make it an uphill battle.
The most glaring deficiency in his offensive game is his inability to create off the dribble, specifically in isolation situations. As a wing, he will need to improve his ability to create better opportunities in late shot clock situations. He does well as a slasher, but his best drives usually come from him attacking a closeout rather than sizing his defender up and beating them in a true one-on-one situation.
He also has a tendency to settle for shots rather than attacking the basket. He can get complacent and make it easy on the defense.
He doesn’t necessarily have a set position and he isn’t exactly a natural fit at the three or the four. This does not automatically qualify as a weakness, but at the very least it’s an unknown. If he can slide in between the three and the four seamlessly, he can quickly turn this into a strength. But if he can’t, the fear is that he becomes the proverbial square peg in the round hole.
Fit in New York
His ability to play a positionless type of game is ultimately the deciding factor in how he will fit in New York under David Fizdale. The new regime of Fizdale, Scott Perry, and Steve Mills have made it clear that they are looking to play a more fluid system where the positions matter less. A strong wing that can transition into a small ball four would be a picture-perfect fit into this philosophy.
If Bridges can slide into that role he could be an outside-of-the-box complement to Kristaps Porzingis. Despite KP’s aversion to playing center, he would fit well in a small ball lineup with a rugged power forward that has the ability to control the boards. Bridges is an excellent rebounder and if he proves he can survive stretches at the four, this could be an underrated fit for the Knicks at the ninth pick.
In terms of whether or not he can handle the bright lights of Madison Square Garden—who knows? He’s been under the microscope as a top prospect coming out of high school and played for a high profile school in Michigan State. It’s almost impossible to tell if a guy can handle New York City, but there’s nothing in his history that would tell you otherwise.
Bottomline—the Knicks would be lucky to draft Bridges at number nine and he could become a versatile, capable player in the NBA. He may not be the best option depending on who’s available, but he won’t be a bad option.