5 NBA players everyone should be keeping a close eye on in 2023-24

O.G. Anunoby and Fred VanVleet NBA (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
O.G. Anunoby and Fred VanVleet NBA (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
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Mikal Bridges (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mikal Bridges (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

4. F Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets

For the first time in his career, Mikal Bridges holds the keys for a team. Watching what he did with the Brooklyn Nets at the end of last season should give fans some excitement as to what he can do over a full season.

Bridges was the big prize in the deal last season that sent Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns. The young wing can do it all on both sides of the court but had never shown as much of a knack for scoring as when he wasn’t surrounded by the likes of Devin Booker.

Consider this: after the trade, Bridges actually averaged more than two minutes fewer on the court than he did with the Suns last season and shot worse from three. Yet his scoring increased from 17.2 points per game all the way to 26.1 points per game.

With an offseason to plan, Bridges’ usage should only grow in 2023-24. There are some intriguing complementary pieces, such as Spencer Dinwiddie, Cam Johnson, and Nic Claxton – not to mention whatever will come of Ben Simmons – but Bridges is clearly the focal point of this roster.

Already an elite defender and scorer, Bridges has talked up his goal to improve on playmaking this summer. He was developing as more of a passer in Phoenix, rising up to 3.6 assists per game last year in Phoenix, but slumped back down to 2.7 assists per game after the trade.

If Bridges keeps improving as an all-around player, he could be a legitimate NBA MVP candidate this season, with Brooklyn’s postseason aspirations rising and falling on his shoulders.