Is Mikal Bridges the Brooklyn Nets next star?

Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /
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Bridges’ improved offensive repertoire for the Nets.

A fact that should be made clear about the rise in play from Bridges is that it started early in the season when he was still part of the Phoenix Suns. He was able to capitalize on the absence of their main guys to have those on-ball reps, which further got highlighted once Bridges became a member of the Brooklyn Nets.

During the stretch when Devin Booker was out, Bridges stepped up to the plate and averaged 19.3 points on a 57.7 true shooting percentage. The pretty clear observation of this is that efficiency did not falter in his increased usage.

It all made sense when the 26-year-old player played out as the main guy for the Nets in 27 regular-season games. He averaged 26.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.6 blocks on 48/38/89 shooting splits (60.7 TS%) in 34.2 minutes per game.

But being in the NBA playoffs will always be a different animal. It might and should reveal your strengths and flaws, so work on your game. And for Bridges, there were a lot of aspects to be excited about that are still in the work-in-progress stage.

Bridges had a passing performance in his first series as the top player in the opponent’s scouting report with numbers of 23.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4 assists, 0.5 steals, and 2 turnovers on 43/40/78 (53.9 TS%) in 39.4 minutes per contest. More than the statistics, there is plenty to unpack by matching it with an eye test.

Early in their series against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Nets were able to get good looks through movement sets. In the case of Bridges, it included more screening actions, either on or off the ball, which caters to his strongest suit on the offensive end.

Here are some possessions where the Nets set double-drag screens to enable Bridges to attack downhill (on-ball) and went with ‘Chicago’ action (pindown to a dribble hand-off).

The Sixers went out to counter those plays by blitzing (sending two to the ball) toward Bridges, forcing him to pass. They also top-locked on the off-ball screens to deny him the basketball. So the other way Bridges would remain effective was to hunt the mismatches and be aggressive to generate paint touches to create scoring opportunities for himself or his teammates.

Against the Sixers, the obvious ones that his 7’1″ frame could punish were Tyrese Maxey and James Harden. With switching basically the norm as the pick-and-roll coverage to keep the ball in front, having the aforementioned guards defend Bridges would be optimal, as he can just raise up and it helps to have a quick first step too.

Though it was evident that Bridges struggled at times in isolation situations and handling the doubles, It’s definitely a must for him to develop his passing. The mere fact that he attracts the defense, open shots will be there and the responsibility to find them lies on Bridges. Still not that pretty, but a necessary enhancement to complete his offensive arsenal.