Not only did Miles Bridges take an undeniable step forward on the hardwood for the Charlotte Hornets in his fourth NBA season, he also made major strides as one of the team’s veteran leaders off the floor and in the locker room.
One of just 13 NBA players to appear in at least 80 games this season, the versatile forward Bridges led the Hornets in scoring with a career-high 20.2 points, while also putting up personal bests in rebounding (7.0), assists (3.8), steals (0.9) and blocks (0.8). His 7.5 points-per-game increase was fifth in the league amongst those with at least 100 field-goal attempts both last year and this year.
Much of Bridges’ increased scoring can be attributed to his elite finishing ability. Amongst players who averaged at least 10.0 drives per game, he ranked ninth in field-goal percentage (53.0%), a significant bump up from last season (48.2%) and even more so from the year before (41.1%). Bridges ended up finishing with nine 30-point games – including a career-high 38 points in New York on Jan. 17 – which tripled his career total heading into the season.
“It would have felt better if we had made it to the playoffs,” said Bridges, when asked about his improvements after the season. “That was my main goal for the whole year. I put a lot of work in every summer and for it to be paying off this fast, it feels good to me, but I want to translate that into wins. All of my improvements don’t mean anything unless we win. It was a growth year. We just have to keep getting better.”
The Michigan State product was firmly in both the NBA All-Star and Most Improved Player conversations as well, finishing seventh in frontcourt voting in the former and also seventh in the latter. Bridges did receive the team’s inaugural Rick Bonnell Award, an honor named after the longtime Charlotte Observer beat writer and given to the player that best represents himself and the franchise with professionalism and cooperation with his interactions with the media.
Perhaps the only blemish on Bridges’ statline this season was his 3-point percentage, which dropped from 40.0% in 2020-21 down to 33.1%, although he did convert 44.2% of his attempts over the final 15 games. Regularly a threat to put pressure on the rim with his high-flying, rim-rattling, crowd-energizing dunks, Bridges served as a primary facilitator more than he ever had before and was capable of playing all three frontcourt positions at a very high level.
And now, Bridges heads into the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that the Hornets will have the right to match any offer extended to him on the open market. When asked about the topic during exit interviews, Bridges said it hadn’t really yet crossed his mind at the time.
“I would love to come back for sure, but I don’t really worry about that stuff,” he said. “I would love to play with Melo and Terry the rest of my career. Those are my guys, my brothers. My mom, she loves it here. My kids love it here. Charlotte has really taken me in. I got drafted here as a 20-year-old kid and for me to grow up here and for everybody to embrace me like they have, that’s something I’ll never forget. Now I’m a 24-year-old man and I love it here.”
Bridges has worked relentlessly on his game and this season proved to be a major breakthrough for the budding young star. Restricted free agency will take care of itself when the time comes and right now, Bridges is focusing on the one thing he can control.
“I want to push myself past exhaustion again this summer, so I come in as a different player again,” he stated. “Just getting in reps. Working on things that I know I need to get better at. Really paying attention and watching film on those things. There are details in everything. I learned that from Kobe, from Kevin Durant. Watching videos of those guys, you see how much attention to detail they put into their work. For me, I’m going to go out there, get a lot of reps, pay attention to the things I do on the court and try to upgrade my game.”