The Phoenix Suns are banking on Mikal Bridges being a part of their core, but where does he fit? Here are three goals for his rookie season.
If you had told Phoenix Suns fans ahead of the 2018 NBA Draft they’d be emerging with the No. 1 overall pick in Deandre Ayton and another top-10 prospect in Mikal Bridges, they would’ve been ecstatic. Yet somehow, that impressive haul has been overshadowed by what the Suns had to give up to get there.
In a draft night trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix sent over the 16th overall pick, Zhaire Smith, and a 2021 first round pick from the Miami Heat. In return, they got Bridges, a 3-and-D wing who was selected at No. 10.
That unprotected pick is viewed as one of the more attractive assets in the league right now, mostly because 2021 is so far away, it could be anything. Maybe Miami has to bottom out, giving it top-10 or top-five potential. Maybe Pat Riley is still around, the Heat are still a contender and it’s a late first-rounder. It’s impossible to project, but for some reason, it’s viewed as some indispensable treasure.
The bigger problem is the pick used on Bridges originally belonged to Phoenix. It came to Philly from the Los Angeles Lakers via the Suns, in the three-team trade for Brandon Knight. The No. 16 pick and the 2021 pick going to the Sixers were what general manager Ryan McDonough received at the same trade deadline for moving Goran Dragic, so the circle of ineptitude was in full spin with this draft-night trade.
Still, Bridges is an NBA-ready player who could fill specific needs for Phoenix, both in the long-term and the short-term. Heading into his rookie season, it remains to be seen how soon he can start filling them. Is he the guy that makes T.J. Warren expendable and covers for Josh Jackson‘s boom-or-bust potential? Or does he need time to come along as well?
As the 22-year-old approaches his debut NBA season on a roster full of wings, here are five realistic goals for him to focus on.