Phoenix Suns: How Their Rookies Can Contribute Right Away

Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges, Villanova Wildcats, NBA
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Mikal Bridges

On draft night, it seemed that Mikal Bridges was in the middle of a story straight out of a Hollywood script. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Bridges starred in his own backyard for three years at Villanova. He won two national championships as a Wildcat, endearing himself to the Philly faithful. Bridges was originally taken 10th by the 76ers, a move that looked to continue the feel-good hometown story.

However, the Sixers would trade Bridges to Phoenix later that night for the rights to Zhaire Smith. That move could prove to be one of the absolute steals of the 2018 draft.

Bridges is the prototypical modern 3-and-D player, meaning that he can contribute offensively by hitting outside shots and also defensively by guarding several positions on the floor. At 6’7″, Bridges creates a matchup problem for smaller guards while simultaneously having the speed and agility to keep up with larger forwards on defense.

It seems a bit strange to suggest that a rookie can add an element of experience to an NBA team, but Bridges can do exactly that. In Villanova’s two championship-winning seasons, Bridges played 40 games both times, first coming off the bench in 2016 and as a starter in 2018.

Bridges has experience in high-level basketball against elite talent, something that recently perennial losers like the Suns are lacking. Bridges averaged 32.2 minutes and 17.7 points per game last year, in addition to shooting 43.5% from three. All three of those figures lead the Wildcats, a team stacked with talent.

Bridges will bring scoring and defense to a team in dire need of both. The Suns were dead last among every team in the Association last year in both offensive and defensive rating. One player, much less a rookie, won’t change that overnight, but he will be able to help.

Now that they have Bridges, they can add another long defender to the floor to pair alongside Josh Jackson. Bridges and Jackson have the potential to make life difficult for opposing players on the wings. The Suns were also last in the league in three-point percentage, something a knockdown shooter like Bridges will likely change.

Mikal Bridges may not be playing in his hometown anymore, but if his past output is any indication of what’s to come, he’ll definitely make them proud back in Philly.

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