mikal bridges nets
Troy Taormina | USA TODAY Sports

From Mikal Bridges‘ perspective, there are two ways to look at his current situation. On one hand, he went from a championship contender to a Nets team with little chance to make it out of the first round of the playoffs. On the flip side, he has an opportunity to show he’s more than an elite 3-and-D wing.

No one is going to pretend Bridges is better than Kevin Durant, but no one expects him to be. All the same, he’s doing his best impression of KD. Brooklyn Bridges or Mid-Range Mikal, whatever nickname Nets fans want to call him, he’s delivering.

Three-pointers and shots at the rim are the most efficient shots in today’s era of analytics. The mid-range is reserved for the elite guys in the game. Although no one should be rushing to put Bridges into that top-tier category yet, the early returns are promising. After being typecast as a 3-and-D wing for so long, he finally has a sustained opportunity to be the top banana.

Bridges is the first player in NBA history to average 25 points on 50/40/90 shooting splits. Not to mention, he’s connecting on 49% of mid-range shots. That’s efficient enough to land Bridges in the 98th percentile among wings per Cleaning the Glass. Again, we need to see more, but it’s a healthy start. The former Villanova star is putting together a nice highlight package with that little fadeaway jumper in the mid-range.

After six losses in seven games to start his Nets tenure, Bridges and company are starting to turn a corner. They are winners of three in a row and hold a four-game lead in the loss column over the seventh-place Heat. Bridges is the undeniable lynchpin in Brooklyn.

After dismantling the disjointed Rockets, the Nets are looking at four more road games against the Bucks, Timberwolves, Nuggets, and Thunder. That leads directly into a four-game homestand against the Kings, Nuggets, and Cavaliers twice. These next two weeks will tell us a lot about this current iteration of Brooklyn’s roster. Avoiding the play-in tournament would be a pleasant surprise.

Winning in the play-in tournament or escaping it entirely is the ceiling for Bridges and his new team. The Bucks, Sixers, Celtics, Cavaliers, or Knicks — Brooklyn’s potential first-round opponents — would all be heavy favorites in a potential series. Could the Nets steal a game or two in the first round? Sure. Are they beating any of those teams? My Magic 8 Ball says “very doubtful.”

But if nothing else, a first-round series would be an opportunity for the Nets to showcase Bridges as a No. 1 option in a playoff environment. When Brooklyn brass made the decision to trade away Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, they punted on fielding a championship contender for the prospect of a more stable future. Bridges is making that gamble look like a prescient decision early on in his Nets career.

Follow ESNY on Twitter @elitesportsny

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.