Tasked with More Responsibility, Miles Bridges Now Eyeing Consistency

by Sam Perley

The Charlotte Hornets asked a lot from Miles Bridges last season and now heading into his third year in the league, they’ll need even more from their now 22-year-old starting small forward.

“I think with Miles, it’ll come down to consistency for him,” said Hornets Head Coach James Borrego. “He had a heck-of-a-run probably before the All-Star Break where he was playing his best basketball. He has it in there. He has the ability, the size, skillset. He just has to put the consistency together. That really just comes down to work, understanding his role, his usage. The more I watch him, the more confidence I have in him.”

The aforementioned stretch Borrego references was a 13-game run from Jan. 28 to Feb. 28 in which Bridges averaged 18.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists while shooting 45% and 35% from three. Following numerous offseason departures last summer, Bridges had more put on his plate than perhaps any other player on the team heading into this past season.

“We gave him more responsibility on the defensive end and forced him into some better habits last year,” added Borrego. “He’s aware he’s a ways away from where we need him defensively, but he’s making strides there. There was a responsibility given to him and earned by him to defend at a higher level last year. That has to continue.”

He added, “On the offensive end, decision-making is big for him, getting in the mix, attacking the rim, making plays at the rim. Ultimately, that’s his strength right now – anything he can do in the paint area. The teams that have the paint threats ultimately have the best shot to win games in this league. Miles has the ability to put pressure on the rim with his size, his athleticism and his force. Now, he has to become more consistent being that threat for us.”

“I always want to improve on my defense,” the Michigan State product stated. “My off-ball defense, I feel like that’s gotten better with my communication. I feel like my on-ball defense is pretty good, but if I get better on my off-ball and my communication, I feel like I’ll be good. On offense, just slow the game down for myself. Make plays for my teammates and sometimes make plays for myself. If I can find a balance there, I think I’ll be good.”

Bridges saw his usage rate (a percentage of offensive plays ended in his possession while he’s on the court) rise from 14.7 (third-lowest on the team) to 19.6% (sixth-highest) between his first and second seasons. His touches per game increased from 26.3 to 41.1 and he also led the Hornets in corner three-point attempts (41-of-111; 36.9%) this past campaign.

Even in this newer era of position-less basketball, the learning curve for starting small forwards – particularly young ones – can be steep in the NBA. However, Bridges is relishing this particular challenge, no matter how demanding it can be on a night-to-night basis.
“That’s why I play in the NBA – I get a challenge every day,” he said. “I could be guarding Jimmy Butler, LeBron James or Kevin Durant. I like to take the challenge head on. My coach believes in me and believes I can guard those guys. He believes I can provide for us on the defensive end. That’s why I want to get better defensively. I know the matchups that I have every night, it’s going to be tough. It excites me to have those types of challenges.”

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