Rookie Miles Bridges Turning Heads with Preseason Play

By Sam Perley

For starters – yes, it’s only been two preseason games for the Charlotte Hornets. The sample size is small and includes a handful of different variables, but at the same time, it’s hard not to be encouraged by the recent play of Miles Bridges.

Through two appearances, Bridges is averaging 16.5 points on 59.5 percent shooting and 7.0 rebounds in 25.9 minutes of action. He’s also connected on 6-of-12 three-point attempts during this stretch, after shooting 36.4 percent from deep at Michigan State last season.

The bouncy 20-year-old has certainly looked the part through his very brief NBA tenure. On the court, Bridges has shown a relatively advanced aptitude for attacking the basket, range shooting, rebounding and defending.

“He gets better every day. He picks things up quicker than I anticipated,” stated Hornets Head James Borrego after Monday’s practice. “His feel for the NBA game is much higher than I thought. He’s starting to figure out rhythms, screen actions, terminology. I think we saw that [Sunday] night on both ends – not just scoring,” he added in reference to Bridges’ 23-point game in Boston.

Bridges has dropped a considerable amount of weight since his college days ended – somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-25 lbs. That’s certainly something that has only aided his adjustment to the next level of basketball.

“It’s definitely helped me with my conditioning,” said Bridges. “If I didn’t lose all that weight, I’d be tired as soon as I get in there. That’s what happened in college. It really has helped me.”

“What he’s doing off the bench right now is pretty cool,” chimed in teammate Nic Batum. “He’s like one of those guys that can do so many things for us. He’s a unique position at the small forward and power forward. He can switch with me, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeremy Lamb. I guy like that on our team is great for us.”

When quizzed on what NBA player Bridges most reminded him of, Batum paused for a moment before scrounging up a rather flattering similarity.

“That’s a good question. He’s pretty unique. I’d have to say a guy like Shawn Marion,” said the Frenchman, referencing the 16-year NBA veteran. “I think that’s a good comparison. A young Shawn Marion.”

Marion, who spent most of his professional career in Phoenix and Dallas, made four All-Star appearances and two All-NBA teams between 1999-2015. He won an NBA championship with the Mavericks in 2011 and much like Bridges, rotated between both forward positions.
Batum’s assessment doesn’t mean that Bridges is guaranteed to have a career like that of Marion’s, but there certainly are some parallels. Both are 6’7” and listed between 225-230 lbs. Marion was a serviceable three-point shooter (career 33.1 percent in a different era), whose athleticism helped make him one of the more versatile two-way players in the league.

Much like the trajectory of Kemba Walker’s career turned in 2015 with the development of a three-point shot, the key to Bridges’ growth will be scoring both off the dribble and from deep.

“It changes his whole game. He becomes a totally different player,” said Borrego. “When you close out short against a guy versus a guy you have to close out to, now [Bridges] can drive by him. If you close short on him, he can shoot the ball. He just creates so much more offense for us when he’s making that shot.”

He added though, “I don’t want him to live in the three-point land. He’s got so much more game than that. If he can do both (score from the inside and outside), we’ve got a heck of a player on our hands.”

For a Charlotte Hornets team aiming to make a significant turnaround this season, the organization is hoping (and appears) to have an exciting young player on its hands in Miles Bridges.